BULA, Camarines Sur—With technology and innovation as key strategies for modernization under the “OneDA” Reform Agenda, the Department of Agriculture (DA) promotes the use of automated system and data-driven farming practices among small farmers to improve farm productivity and cut wastes.
Rice farmers, in particular, are at the center of this modernization campaign with the aim to sustain the availability and high yield of this staple food for all Filipino households.
To provide a venue to further discuss this potential in the country’s rice production, forums and dialogues are regularly held among key players in the industry. This include the 14th National Rice Technology Forum (NRTF) organized by the DA’s National Rice Program and the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Rice Productivity Advocacy Incorporated or Rice Board, local government of Bula, Camarines Sur, private seed companies and providers, Philippine Rice Research Institute, and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).
Some 3,500 rice farmers’ cooperative and associations; representatives from the OneDA network, provincial and municipal government units, private sector; and other delegates nationwide attended the event. The venue was a 104.3-hectare clustered rice area in San Agustin, San Ramon Farmers Cooperative (SARFC) in Bula, Camarines Sur—the largest of the NRTF venues to date.
The most innovative and latest rice farming technologies and practices were showcased here to increase production through hybrid rice technology. A field tour of technology demonstration areas for hybrid and inbred seeds was held each day of the four-day event.
A total of 12 private seed companies joined, namely Corteva, LEADS Agriventures, Syngenta, Longping, Bioseed, BAYER, PhilSCAT, Seedworks, SL Agritech, ALJAY, and New Hope Incorporated, together with INAVET which complements seed companies. These companies planted 27 hybrid seeds and showcased the advantages of growing hybrid rice. Hybrid rice is said to produce 10% to 15% higher yield than inbred palay seeds.
Four inbred rice varieties from PhilRice were also showcased, alongside cost-reducing technologies and modern farm equipment and machinery, drones, and other digital tools.
“I am happy to note that agri-clustering is gaining ground. In Bicol alone, there are 108 agri clusters—20 for rice, 60 for corn, five for livestock, and 23 for high-value crops. Let’s continue to intensify our efforts to establish more agri-clusters and campaign for the adoption of hybrid rice technology and best practices among our local farmers through continuous conduct of technology forums and other extension modalities,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar, said in his keynote speech delivered virtually.
Senator Cynthia Villar and ATI Director Rosana Mula also gave messages virtually.
“Knowledge-sharing is really an important part of what we should provide our farmers for them to understand that there are choices they have to make on what to plant and how to plant in their rice field. The goal is to reduce cost and increase income per hectare,” Villar said as she lauded the host province and emphasized the relevance of events like NRTF.
"Despite setbacks, we became more passionate about ensuring that there is sufficient and safe food for all. I hope that we continue to have an open mind, respect, understanding, and harmonious relationships so that we can collectively respond to the issues faced by the rice industry which remains the closest to the hearts of every Filipino," Dir. Mula said as she talked about how the pandemic brought out a stronger commitment to provide better quality service in the agriculture sector.
ATI Bicol Center Director Elsa Parot shared their commitment to take part in such a big-scale extension methodology that aims to introduce a “basket of options” for rice farmers. She added that DA's partnerships with the private sector are important to ensure the continuous growth of agriculture.
Meanwhile, DA Bicol’s Regional Executive Director Rodel Tornilla remarked that this year’s rice technology forum goes well with the operationalization of the DA’s Bayanihan Agri-Clustering program. He said that in the Bicol region, there are already 20 rice clusters.
Rice Board President Recher Ondap highlighted in his message the rationale of the event as he reminisced the humble beginnings of NRTF in a 4-hectare demo site. He stressed that the heart and soul of this national forum is technology demonstration.
“We need farmers at least three times a day in our life. That is why we thank all our farmers and cooperators. Without you, the NRTF will not be possible,” he said.
DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan urged all farmers to make the most of the knowledge and information shared with them in the forum, to achieve the “three Es in learning: educate, enlightenment, equilibrium.”
“May these initiatives become our benchmark, and we are always as good as our last performance. Let us stabilize this one, the only way is this going to change is when it will be challenged and the things that we’ll be doing are already improvements,” he said, adding that the DA is ready to assist farmers in any form and any way.
USec. Cayanan also led a press conference right after the opening program to address pressing concerns in the rice industry.
The NRTF was held last April 19-22, 2022. The complete live broadcasts of this event can be found on DA Bicol and ATI Bicol’s Facebook pages. (with reports from DA Bicol and ATI Bicol)