Marcos bats for use of hybrid rice seeds to increase crop yield

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 15) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he supports the adoption of the use of hybrid rice to help local farmers increase their crop production.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil on Wednesday said the chief executive made the statement following a Tuesday meeting with farmers from Central Luzon and SL Agritech Corporation (SLAC) chairman and chief executive officer Henry Lim Bon Liong.

It was Bon Liong who recommended the conversion of rice farming areas for certified seeds (CS) to hybrid seeds, Garafil said.

The SLAC executive, whose company is engaged in research and development, production, and distribution of hybrid rice seeds, noted that "hybrid farmers have reported harvesting around 7 to 15 metric tons (MT) per hectare as compared to the average 3.6 MT/hectare for inbred seeds."

Implementing this nationwide will give better income to farmers and achieve rice sufficiency for the country, he added.

SLAC proposed to convert 1.9 million hectares of land planted with certified seeds to hybrid seeds in four years.

To support this, Marcos - who is also Agriculture secretary - said he will implement a program to encourage farmers to shift by providing subsidies and loans.

The president also said he wants to apply the best practices being done in Central Luzon to other parts of the country.

Asked about the matter, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairman Rosendo So said it would be better for the government to focus on developing certified and inbred seeds.

If hybrid seeds are really effective, why do farmers still not go for this kind, he pointed out.

In terms of cost of production, So said farmers still prefer using inbred instead of hybrid seeds because the former is only around ₱1,200 per hectare, compared to the latter which is around ₱5,000 per hectare.

If the government wants farmers to use hybrid seeds, it should develop a variety that fits the country's climate, since those being currently planted are imported and are prone to diseases, he said.

"Kaiba sa certified seeds, ang hybrid rice seeds hindi na pwedeng i-binhi. Palaging bibili ang magsasaka. Ang kumpanya ng hybrid seeds ang may tiyak na kita dito," Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement Saturday.

[Translation: Compared to certified seeds, hybrid rice seeds can't be bred. Farmers will always buy seeds. The company that sells hybrid seeds will surely profit from this.]

"This hybrid seeds program is much like Marcos Sr's MASAGANA 99 program that tied Filipino farmers into chemically-dependent high-yielding variety (HYV) seeds, costly fertilizers, and herbicides," the group added.

Experts who were part of MASAGANA 99's implementation have also criticized it for its use of pesticides that damaged the environment, and loss of trained personnel, among others. The program was eventually scrapped in 1984.