The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) said it is expecting an increase in the annual average rice production from the previous four metric tons to five metric tons in year 2021 as the majority of farmers in Palawan have started to use hybrid palay seeds.

The OPA also said with the increase in production, rice sufficiency throughout the year will be maintained.

Provincial Agriculturist Dr. Romeo Cabungcal said rice production of Palawan during the dry cropping season from the timeline of September 2020 to March 2021 was recorded at 103, 949 metric tons as of April 5, with an average production of 4.1 metric tons and covers 25, 179 hectares (ha).

It is equivalent to some 67, 566 metric tons of rice supply with 65 percent milling recovery.

“We expect somewhat na malalagpasan natin ‘yong average production ng Palawan na four metric tons, baka ‘yan ay five metric tons so ibig sabihin ay tataas ang production. During season na ito, nag-change na tayo – ang Palawan dahil nakita nila na potential for hybrid rice seeds at hindi na inbred seeds. Meron pa rin mga inbred pero more ang inaano natin ay hybrid seeds, galing ngayon doon sa national rice program,” Cabuncal stated.

“Supposedly, kasi nga ang pinamigay natin ay hybrid seeds and mataas ‘yong target production natin sa hybrid compare doon sa inbred seeds. Kasi noon meron nakaka-6.5 but actually ang target natin ay 5 metric tons lang so mag-i-exceed tayo ng production. Ang advantage pa nito ay nakalusot ang ibang farmers natin ng third cropping,” he added.

He said it is also an advantage to some local farmers that there are rains occurring after the onset of the dry season was announced by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in March.

“Eventually, kung nakalusot ‘yon, iyon din ang isang reason probably answered na mag-exceed ang production,” he said.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture (DA) released its projection of some 10 million metric tons of unhusked rice or palay during the dry season cropping in the country and to exceed 20 million metric tons target production in 2021.

The target production of the province will contribute to the record projected by the agriculture department. The province of Palawan is one of the 57 Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF) supported provinces in the country which benefits from different RCEF component programs.

DA stated that the average yield in the RCEF areas has increased to 4.09 metric tons per hectares (mt/ha) in 2020 from 3.61 mt/ha in 2019. DA targets to hit 4.30 mt/ha for the average yield in 2021.

With the harvest record and the target to exceed last year’s average production, Palawan could secure rice sufficiency in 2021, he said.

“Unang-una, ang Palawan ay self-sufficient in terms of rice kaya nga ngayon ay mayroong resolution approved by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan na niri-regulate natin ang shipment ng paglabas ng bigas sa lalawigan ng Palawan. That is because dito nga na meron tayong krisis, may COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government wants to sure na meron enough rice dito sa Palawan,” he explained.

“Kasi kami ang mandated office to issue ‘yong mga certification, nakakapag-issue kami kasi based on the inventory of records na galing sa ating mga private trader at sa report ng ating munisipyo, okay pa naman ang kondisyon o inventory ng rice natin,” he said.

As OPA does not regulate the importation of rice supply coming to Palawan as mandated by Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tarriffication Law, he said that there is still imported rice coming to the province.

“Siguro meron pa rin kaya nga makikitang mga imported rice na dumarating dito. Hindi kasi natin nire-regulate ang pagpasok, ang nire-regulate lang natin ay ang paglabas ng ating mga bigas. Wala ako so far record at what volume ‘yong na-i-import na dinadala rito sa atin sa Palawan,” he said.

The mechanization program as one of the components of the RCEF that helps to utilize and mechanize land areas from planting to harvesting will be helpful to local farmers, he said. The improvement in mechanization gives convenience to farmers and even helps to lessen the production losses, he emphasized.

“Noon ang ginagamit ay araro lang, ngayon because of the provision of the four-wheel tractor ay lumalaki at mas napapabilis nila ang preparation nila and even during the harvesting. Tayo noon ay thresher lang, ngayon ay marami na ang combined harvester,” he said.

“Sa wet season natin ng March 16, meron na tayong report ng March 16 to September 15, ito ‘yong as of April 5, meron na tayong area na natingnan na 2, 063. Kasi ngayon marami ang na-access natin na seeds sa Department of Agriculture ay hybrid seeds,” he said.

Farmgate price

Cabungcal said that based on their recent field monitoring, the farmgate price of palay is now ranging at P14.50 selling price of local farmers.

“Which is okay na rin sa farmers, kasi ngayon ang level ng production nila because of the ginagamit nila na technology and meron pa tayong program ng Department of Agriculture na rice seed subsidy, umi-increase talaga ang production ng farmers. Sa ngayon, ang sinasabi rin sa akin ng traders, because ‘yong farmers ngayon ay gumagamit na ng combined harvester, medyo ‘yong quality ng kanilang naha-harvest ay nag-i-improve,” he said.

He also said the lower prevailing selling price in some towns might be due to an insufficient number of drying facilities that affect the quality of harvest sold to traders.

“Siguro meron mga sasabihin na munisipyo na mas mababa pero baka ‘yon ay mga low quality na mga palay,” he said.

“But also in the post-production aspect, dapat tingnan ang mga drying facility, sa milling, and other things na can contribute (sa farmgate price),” he said.

DA implemented the Rice Resiliency Project II (RRP II) with three sub-projects namely Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF)- Enhanced; Expanded Inbred Rice Production (Beyond RCEF areas); and Expanded Hybrid Rice Production in Suitable Areas.

The RRP aimed to increase the productivity of farmers and ensure food security in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic through the provision of free seeds and fertilizer subsidies during the 2020 wet cropping season.

While for 2020 to 2021 dry cropping season, DA implemented the RRP II to sustain the gains of the RRP I and to achieve at least five percent of the production growth at the provincial level. In RRP I, the agriculture department has released P50,293,825.34 worth of fertilizers for Palaweño farmers, and some P104, 489,000.00 was released in RRP II for fertilizer and seed support.

Aside from the intervention of the national government, Cabungcal said Palawan is also supporting local farmers through the PGP Cares which is a corn and rice enhancement for food sufficiency.

“Tinitingnan namin dito ay potential beneficiary, meron itong bayad, payment without interest. Isa pa rito, 40 percent ng total loan amount mo ay subsidized by the provincial government so ang ibabalik mo lang ay 60 percent,” he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.