THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is launching a pilot test program which subsidizes the process of consolidating farms for planting to hybrid rice, DA adviser for hybrid rice program Frisco M. Malabanan told reporters Tuesday.

Ang isa pong sisimulan ngayong taon na ito na hybrid rice program under the current administration — meron po tayong pilot cluster sa Region 3, Region 6, Region 11. But of course all other regions, sisimulan na rin po ’yung clustering approach. (One thing we’re starting this year is the hybrid rice program under the current administration. We have a pilot cluster in Region 3, Region 6, Region 11. But of course all other regions, we will begin the clustering approach).”

Farmers can consolidate or cluster a minimum of 100 hectares to participate in the hybrid rice.

Initial assistance will be offered for 320,000 hectares, focusing on favorable irrigated and rainfed areas.

“(Planting begins) May and June,” he said.

The budget for the program is close to P30 million per cluster, from the funds of the National Rice Program.

He said 577,000 hectares were planted to hybrid rice in 2018, adding that the DA targets 1.5 million hectares of hybrid rice by 2024 — including agribusinesses not subsidized by the program.

Hybrid rice promises higher yields and better resistance to environmental conditions, but is more expensive and in many cases requires farmer subsidies.

Lahat ng regions magsisimula na ng organization ng cluster this year — hoping by 2021, mabibigyan na ng mas malaking budget ang programa. (All regions will start organizing clusters this year — we are hoping that the program will receive a bigger budget by 2021,” Mr. Malabanan said. — Jenina P. Ibañez