The first nationwide contest, by the Philippines Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) focuses on reducing rice production costs. Dubbed Palayabangan: The 10-5 Challenge, it begins in June and aims to bring the rice production standard to 10-5, or 10 tonnes per hectare yield at only PHP5 (US$0.12) input cost per kilo of palay. The current average input cost is pegged at PHP11 (US$0.26) per kilo.
As part of the National Year of Rice campaign to increase productivity and boost farmers’ morale, Palayabangan (“rice watch”) will “show farmers what they can do to improve yield and reduce production cost,” said Eufemio T. Rasco Jr, PhilRice executive director.
“This initiative will also address issues on agriculture competitiveness, which would eventually help decrease smuggling and importation.”
Rasco added that the 10-5 Challenge will continue until the goal of “high income-low cost production” is achieved and sustained.
The competition is open to any farmer or farmer groups, seed companies, fertilizer companies, non-government organszations, civil society groups,and state colleges and universities.
The national winner will receive PHP5m (US$120,000) in project funding and technology promotions, while PHP100,000 (US$2,400) will be awarded to regional winners. Consolation prizes of PHP10,000 (US$240) are also available. Winners will be known in November.
Calls for SRI
Meanwhile, Pinoy farmers have been urged to follow India’s lead and implement a rice-growing method that has helped recently make India the world’s top rice exporter.
The system of rice intensification (SRI) method involves simple changes in farmers’ practices such as transplanting younger seedlings individually and at wider distances, drying the fields intermittently, using nonchemical weeding methods and relying more on compost and other organic inputs to fertilize the fields.
“SRI is so simple that farmers can learn the basics in a day of training,” said Roberto Verzola, coordinator of SRI Pilipinas, the organisation that promotes the method in the country through free seminars and training to farmers’ groups. It also gives free primers and lessons via text messages to individual farmers.
In India, which has embraced SRI), rice exports jumped to 10.3m tons last year from 4.8m tons in 2011, making the country the top rice exporter in 2012, ahead of Vietnam and traditional leader Thailand.