Senate redirects funding from DA’s hybrid-rice push

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Senator Cynthia A. Villar -- PHILSTAR

SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar said the 2018 budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has been realigned to direct funds to “more important things” like poultry and livestock instead of hybrid rice seed.

“You have to plan your budget well so he funds go to things that will improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolk,” Ms. Villar, who chairs the committee on agriculture and food, told reporters on the sidelines of the ASEAN Agriculture Summit in Pasay City on Wednesday

Ms. Villar, who also chairs the Senate’s finance committee, said the DA budget of P57 billion for 2018 was appoved. The budget compares with P54 billion this year, but is well below the department’s initial request of P213 billion.

Ms. Villar has said the initial budget proposal set aside 3% of the total to the livestock and poultry sector which accounts for some 33% of the total annual farm output, and may be needing the most support amid the negative impact of an avian influenza outbreak.

She said the DA suffers from a “belief” that hybrid rice varieties are superior to traditional inbred seeds. Hybrid seed forms the centerpiece of the DA’s strategy to boost rice production and achieve self-sufficiency.

As a compromise, Ms. Villar said, “we are dividing so there is no argument — half the funds for inbred, half for hybrid.”

The DA has said it wants to plant hybrid seed on one million additional hectares by 2019, on top of the existing 500,000 hectares.

“I have arranged things so inbred seed is given to cooperatives and irrigators so they can teach  farmers how to produce inbred seed that will give them a yield of 6 MT per hectare,” Ms. Villar added, noting that the national average yield of rice is around 4 MT per hectare.

“We want inbred seed to perform just like hybrid but at a cost of only 15% of the hybrid. To get the most of our limited funds,” she said. — Janina C. Lim