THE Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said it is seeking to increase the average yield of the inbred rice seed handed out to farmers.

Flordeliza H. Bordey, PhilRice director for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Program Management Office, said the agency is planning to improve the yield of the rice seed variety to beyond 5 metric tons (MT) per hectare (/ha).

“We started with 3.6 (MT per hectare). So we have seen improvements over the years. Pero medyo baka mabitin tayo dun sa 5 (MT per hectare) (But we might fall short of the stretch target of 5 MT)” Ms. Bordey said in an interview.

RCEF Seed and Rice Extension Services programs are components of Republic Act 11203, or the Rice Tariffication Law, which sets aside P10 billion a year from rice import tariffs to make rice farmers more competitive.

The program’s target is to increase yields to 5 MT per hectare by 2025.

“So that’s what we’ll try to do in the next phase… we’ll definitely set a new target,” she added.

PhiRice said that the average yield of inbred seeds provided by RCEF increased to 4.36 MT per hectare last year, from 3.63 MT per hectare in 2022.

Among the government’s goals is to increase self-sufficiency for rice to 95% by 2028.

Ms. Bordey said that this could be attained through the distribution of both inbred and hybrid seed to production areas where they are best suited.

She added that under RCEF, inbred seed is distributed to 42 provinces with low to medium yields, while hybrid seed is given to 25 high-yielding areas.

The inbred seed is distributed to Negros Occidental, Leyte, Samar and Panay, while hybrid seed varieties are sent to 15 provinces, including Nueva Ecija, Isabela and Pangasinan.

“According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), rice harvest (is set to) increase slightly for the first quarter compared to the previous year… so prospects are good. We are hoping that the harvest would improve or at least not be lower than 2023,” she said.

The PSA is projecting the palay or unmilled harvest to increase 1.1% to 4.83 million MT.

The Department of Agriculture is projecting a palay harvest of above 20 million MT this year. The harvest in 2023 was 20.05 million MT, equivalent to about 13 million MT in milled rice. — Adrian H. Halili