SURALLAH, South Cotabato (MindaNews / 15 September) – Three months after setting the target, South Cotabato managed on Friday to produce a record-high palay (unhusked rice) average yield of eight metric tons (MT) per hectare based on a sampling harvest method, officials and farmers said.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last June 14 that the province can produce an average of eight MT (8,000 kilograms) of palay per hectare, double the national average of at least four MT.
Marcos, concurrent Agriculture Secretary, led the launching of the province’s Consolidated Rice Production and Mechanization Program (CRPMP) then in nearby Banga town, where he handed P115 million worth of agricultural support from the national government.
“Based on crop cut estimates, the yield is between a high of 12 tons and a low of 10 tons,” Tamayo said in Filipino during the program’s first harvest festival here attended by hundreds of farmers and agricultural stakeholders.
A crop cut estimate is a sampling method, which in the case here involved one square meter of harvestable palay.
Tamayo said the different farms selected for crop cut sampling yielded at least one kilogram of palay per one square meter. There are 210 hectares of contiguous palay farms in this town in different stages of maturity under the CRPMP.
Across the province, some 1,600 hectares of palay farms have already been consolidated, out of the 3,000-hectare target, Tamayo said.
Producing at least eight MT of palay per hectare is doable in the province, he noted.
For this cropping cycle, Tamayo said the price of milled ordinary rice “could be sold at P30 per kilo, and could be further brought down to P25 per kilo in the next harvest period.”
“Our target is to increase the income of farmers to encourage them to continue planting and produce more so that we can lower the price of rice for the consumers,” the governor said.
Tamayo, a key Marcos ally, noted the province – with its eight-MT per hectare palay yield production – can be instrumental in helping bring down the price of rice to a level affordable to most Filipinos that, according to Tamayo, is the “dream” of the President.
Early this month, Marcos imposed a price cap on rice at P41 and P45 per kilo for regular and well-milled rice, respectively, after retail prices breached the P50-kilo level.
During the presidential campaign trail in 2022, various national media outlets reported that Marcos had repeatedly promised to bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo.
Tamayo, president of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, the political party of the President, described the report as “fake news” in a press conference following the speeches at the harvest festival here.
If the target of 3,000 hectares of consolidated palay farms will be achieved, Tamayo said the yield “would be enough to feed South Cotabato for 10 months.”
He conceded though that there are “players,” apparently referring to rice cartels, who could spoil the situation.
Tamayo expressed hopes the palay farming program of the province, which according to him was designed to be sustainable, will be replicated in other parts of the country.
Henry Eslabon, chair of the Upper Valley Agriculture Cooperative, attested that eight MT tons of palay per hectare is attainable.
“I have proven it myself in the past two years after I used hybrid seeds. Kayang-kaya ang eight MT per hectare average. I’ve had excellent yields because the climate and soil here are suitable for the hybrid variety,” he told MindaNews.
He added he harvested such a volume for six straight cropping seasons already.
Using hybrid rather than inbred seeds is costly, but the former gives a much better income, Eslabon, a former municipal councilor here, said.
Under the consolidated rice program here, farmers planted the Arize Bigante Plus variety, a product of Bayer.
Eslabon said that a sack of hybrid palay seed costs P5,000 per sack while only P1,600 for an inbred variety.
Hybrid seeds are not designed to be replanted unlike the inbred, though the latter’s yield becomes lesser the more that they are replanted.
Eslabon noted the government subsidy for the program – such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and land preparation, among others – was a big help to the farmer beneficiaries whose equity, in the form of labor, was about 30 percent of the total production cost.
Loel Nillos, municipal agriculture officer, told MindaNews that the prevailing commercial farmgate price for palay here ranges from P19 to P19.50 per kilo.
He said that a farmer was able to harvest 146 sacks of palay, at an average weight of 63 kilos a sack, from one hectare.
At current prices, that’s about P175,000 for a production cost of P50,000, or a net income of P125,000, Nillos added.
“This only proves that a farmer can produce double the national average production rate,” he said.
As of 3 p.m. Friday, harvesting, done using a mechanized equipment provided as part of the rice consolidation and mechanization program, was still ongoing.
Nillos said the program would run for three years or six cropping cycles. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)