DAVAO CITY — Seedwork Philippines is pushing for the propagation of its premium rice variety in the Davao Region as a way for local farmers to increase their incomes as the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) looks to export these varieties.

In a forum here Wednesday, Carlos Miguel L. Saplala, president of the Seedwork Philippines, said its premium rice variety US 88 is among those that can be marketed both locally and abroad as it commands better prices.

Mr. Saplala said he is confident this “is the right seed variety that our farmers in Mindanao need to bolster their yields.”

Aside from a farm trial in Nueva Ecija, the variety also underwent a trial in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur where the resulting yield was about 10 metric tons a hectare, way above the average rice production of four metric tons a hectare.

Its genetic potential is 14 metric tons per hectare, which can be achieved in optimal conditions, Mr. Saplala said.

If milled, the rice variety is of long grain quality, soft even if not hot and better tasting compared with some premium varieties, the official said.

In Mindoro, Mr. Saplala said the milled rice variety sells for about P2 higher than the average per-kilogram price.

Millers market it as specialty rice of hybrid variety as the US and its name stands for “Ubod ng Sarap.”

Mr. Saplala said the variety is tolerant to some rice diseases, including the Bacterial Leaf Blight, which usually reduces production.

In Tagum City Wednesday night, the company launched its “Ang Hari ng Ani” contest for farmers using US 88 to motivate them to adopt the variety. The contest will run between November and December.

The company added it is collaborating with MinDA to produce premium rice for export.

Remus C. Morandante, Seedwork Philippines vice- president for sales and public affairs, said a top official of the company, Franklin Y. Aguda, was among those who joined former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol during a visit to Papua New Guinea in a bid to export premium rice to the country.

“We are collaborating with MinDA (on propagating the variety either for local and export markets),” said Mr. Morandante.

He said there is demand for the variety among farmers in the Davao Region, particularly those in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

“There were demands from the farmers…if it is not US 88, they better not be given (seeds),” he said.

He added that aside from the possibility of exporting the variety, the plan is to teach farmers of Papua New Guinea to propagate it.

“There are potential areas (in the country where they can grow rice),” Mr. Morandante added.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will be distributing about two million bags of certified seeds under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEP) to rice farmers within the year, in a bid to increase yields by 2024.

The Agriculture department said in a statement that farmer beneficiaries listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBA) will receive seeds for two consecutive cropping seasons until December 2020.

They will also be entitled to up to four bags of inbred seeds depending on farm size for the October to December planting season. Rice seed varieties include NSIC Rc 160, Rc 216, Rc 222, and two location-specific inbred varieties.

The seeds are equivalent to planting about one million hectares of rice land, which the DA expects will boost yields by up to six tons per hectare in high-yielding provinces by 2024.

“So far, we have identified 57 provinces based on the size of area harvested, yield level, cost of production, and share of irrigated area. These municipalities and cities must also have an annual area planted of more than 500-ha for dry season 2019-2020,” DA Secretary William D. Dar said in a statement.

The DA will also provide farmers with technical briefings on seed preparation and other interventions and technologies from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI) to achieve their yield targets.

The department tapped local government units to help it validate the farmer beneficiaries listed in the RSBA. The LGUs will further assist in seed delivery inspection and seed distributions.

The distribution of the better seeds is part of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act. It states that the government should allot a P3-billion fund or 30% of the RCEP for the PRRI for the production and distribution of high-yielding rice over a six-year period. — Carmelito Q. Francisco and Arra B. Francia