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RP can be sufficient in rice within one year
Time: 2009/9/25 8:28:49 -

THE Philippines can be sufficient in rice within one year, maybe less. Is this possible? As of August, the country has imported 1.6 million metric tons of rice. This week the Department of Justice gave the Department of Agriculture (DA) the green light to import 10,000 metric tons from Vietnam under the East Asia Emergency Rice Reservation (EAERR) program.

Yes, this is possible. How? As with the poet about love, let me count the ways.

The DA has its FIELDS. There is no need to elaborate on this. DA has an extensive information campaign.

There is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI ).

There is the Gabuyo-Puyat Profitable Rice Protocol (GPPRP).

The SRI made its entry into the Philippine scene about five years ago. Its advocates now are led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.

From September 28 to 31, SRI will have its national conference at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, Diliman, Quezon City. Roberto Verzola, an information-technology expert, is the national coordinator.

The SRI was discovered in 1983 by French Jesuit Fr. Henri de Laulanie in Madagascar. Its core is the planting of single seedlings instead of multiple seedlings or in clumps. It dramatically increased rice production from 2 to 4, then 6 tons per hectare in its place of origin. It has now spread to 28 countries, counting Bhutan, Iraq, Iran and Zambia in its 2007 roster.

In some fields, the yield is now up to 10 tons per hectare. Many farmers in India and China are now adopting it.

The person responsible for spreading SRI worldwide is Dr. Norman Uphoff, director of the International Institute for Food and Agricultural Development of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He got acquainted with SRI in the mid- 1990s and has been a most active proponent. He is attending the SRI Philippine conference.

I got introduced to SRI after I wrote about the Gabuyo-Puyat Profitable Rice Protocol and the inputs for them and the Primer Farm School in barangay Tondod, San Jose City, Nueva Ecija.

Alfonso Puyat, Fernando Gabuyo Jr. and I decided to promote the GPPRP and the inputs for it and the school as one of the answers to the rice crisis in April 2008. The Philippines that year imported 2.6 million metric tons of rice, begging traditional rice suppliers to allow it to buy at even four times the regular price.

Rafael Soria, an SRI advocate, e-mailed me a briefing about the system. He suggested we make comparative studies of the SRI and GPPRP. At about the same time, I was getting inquiries from Vietnam whether we would accept trainees from  Vietnam.

And, querulous, I asked why, as the Philippines was importing rice from Vietnam. The answer was its average harvest was 6 tons per hectare with three croppings per year and with an area tilled for rice much bigger than the Philippines¡¯. However, its regular high yield per hectare, was 10  tons, and the GPP RP¡¯s 16 to 17 tons was simply amazing.

Amazing was also the adjective used by the Colombians. The president of one of the bigger agricultural firms of Colombia communicated with me. An agreement was reached, and in April 2009 the officers of the Colombian firm, accompanied by their wives, came to the Philippines to sign a memorandum of agreement with Mr. Puyat for the use of the GPPRP in South America and for the manufacture, under license, of the inputs there.

I told Mr. Soria that our miniscule resources would not allow us to go into comparative studies or experiments, but they were welcome to try ours.

Mr. Soria introduced me to Prof. Zosimo de la Rosa, head of the Visayas State University¡¯s (VSU) Farmland Resource Management Institute, an ardent SRI practitioner. He has agreed to do a trial of the GPPRP in Baybay City.

I assured Professor de la Rosa that he would have a more comfortable field trial because one of his former students at VSU, Dr. Roel Suralta, is now head of the PhilRice application of the GPPRP and the inputs for it in Muñoz City.

In July 2008, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) executive director Rolino Beronio signed a memorandum of agreement with Mr. Puyat for PhilRice to coordinate in field trials using PhilRice¡¯s and the DA¡¯s vaunted Palay Check and the GPPRP. This was upon  the advice of Sen. Edgardo Angara and Rep. Abraham Mitra, chairmen of the committees of agriculture of the Senate and the House, respectively.

The first field trial was done in barangay Tondod, San Jose City, in July 2008. PhilRice planted a field using the Palay Check next to that of Mr. Gabuyo¡¯s.

The second field trial was done in the PhilRice experimental station in Muñoz City, with the same format. PhilRice had its field using the Palay Check next to Mr. Gabuyo¡¯s.This was for the dry planting season in January 2009.

The results of both trials showed the superiority of the GPPRP over what PhilRice has been using. Between October and the next dry season planting, that is, between October and November, the over 1,000 committed and energetic  PhilRice technicians could spread through the country teaching the farmers the GPPRP. Again, barring the effect of climate change or a summer heavy with rain and strong wind, the nationwide rice harvest would be very substantial, enough for the Philippines not to import rice again.

In April 2009 we invited a BusinessMirror reporter and photographer to witness what we expected was a world-record rice harvest, up to 370 cavans per hectare, higher than the 354 cavans, Mr. Gabuyo harvested two summers earlier.   

The 2007 harvest was only 328 cavans per hectare because there was much rain that summer.

April 2009 was a different summer in Mr. Gabuyo¡¯s farm. Two days before the harvest, a whirlwind that had not visited the farm in over 30 years flattened the field.

The BusinessMirror came out with a front-page photo and a lyrical caption on climate change. The following day the flattened field was punished some more with three days of rain. When the sun came back, harvesting was finally done.  Even with the strong wind and the heavy rain, the harvest was over 300 cavans per hectare, though lower than the over 370 expected, lower than the 354, lower than the 328.

We are not anymore sure about the climate. The climate confuses not man alone, but even the plants. All the more reason why we must aspire to maximizing the harvest with every planting, in all the seasons

As a coda, we must not think of increasing the harvest alone; we must also consider the post-harvest facilities. There should be no more kilometers of rice grain spread to dry in the national highways.

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