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Agriculture association pushes back against hybrid rice ‘certification’

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rice farmer
A farmer checks rice plants at the International Rice Research Institute in Laguna. -- AFP

AN agricultural industry association has questioned the Department of Agriculture’s plan to draft a list of its preferred hybrid rice seed varieties, saying that farmers need to make their own choices or develop their own seed instead of being steered to products of certain suppliers.

In a text message to BusinessWorld, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) noted that “usually, these ‘certified seeds’ come from one company that is being promoted by the DA,” the SINAG said, without identifying the company.

“What is needed is a favorable policy space that will ultimately provide rice farmers the opportunity and incentives to breed their own seeds or freely choose commercial seeds that will suit best the conditions of their farms.”

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol in a social media post on Tuesday asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to exempt hybrid rice seed from government procurement rules that award contracts to the lowest bidder.

Mr. Piñol claims that Mr. Duterte has agreed, and instructed the department to list its preferred hybrid seed varieties.

The DA considers hybrid seed, which is more expensive but also higher-yielding, to be key towards achieving rice self-sufficiency. SINAG, however, said certain varieties of proven non-hybrid seeds “are well-suited” for Philippine planting conditions. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato