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Bohol to ask DA to amend NRP memo on hybrid seeds

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, May 12 (PIA) -- Governor Erico Aristotle Aumentado and the Provincial El Niño Task Force are appealing to the Department of Agriculture to amend, if not to exempt Bohol from Department of Agriculture Memorandum Order No. 31 (MO 31, s. 2023).

The said memorandum order, which DA Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development Leocadio Sebastian signed on April 24, 2023, is the new Implementing Guidelines for the provision of Hybrid Rice Seeds under the National Rice Program to improve the country’s rice production capacity and enhance the rice value chain to help farmers gain good income and food security.

The memorandum gave hybrid seed support to farmers in irrigation associations and farmers’ cooperative associations, in rice-producing areas for the dry and wet planting seasons in 2023.

The seed allocation, however, states that to maximize the hybrid rice planted areas, only farmers cultivating at least 1,000 square meters or more as declared in the Registry of System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and are encoded in the Farmers and Fisher-folk Registry System (FFRS) are eligible to get the hybrid seeds.

This becomes a problem for Bohol as majority of rice farmers have smaller rice farms, and thus denies most of the farmers the opportunity to help in the province’s food security program especially with long dry season in the offing, explained DA former rice industry production support coordinator Cecille Opada during the meeting.

“The new policy is apparently patterned after the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Funds Program and PhilRICE guidelines,” Opada added.

The state weather bureau, PAGASA, through its head Leonardo Samar, confirmed that with the El Niño Alert up, people can expect a long dry season from June this year to the first quarter of next year, or in the next ten months.

The said memo, which aims to increase farmers’ adoption of hybrid rice seeds by 40% and obtain an average hybrid rice yield to up to 6 tons to 8 tons in wet and dry seasons by 2028, bared that only farmers who are listed in the RSBSA and whose names are encoded in the FFRS as of Dec. 31, 2022 are eligible to get free hybrid seeds from the project.

While the DA is continuing its RSBSA registration, encoding the names in the FFRS does not happen at the same time.

There is a 20,000 data gap between the RSBSA registry and the FFRS, admitted Opada who added that this would further alienate more farmers who could potentially help Bohol in heaping up its food security.

Aumentado, who presided over the Task Force Meeting, expressed his alarm and said the provincial government would send a letter to the DA seeking to amend the memorandum, or if not, exempt Bohol in the ruling, considering that the guideline has been designed with the idea that farmers own big landholdings.

“This does not fit us,” he said, adding to the local DA authorities that they could have informed Capitol earlier so there would have been enough time to act.

The distribution of hybrid seeds start now as the program is set to run this May planting season and onwards.

The governor also revealed that the provincial government will set aside a supplemental budget.

The additional emergency budget measure will allow most farmers with smaller farms readied for rice.

On this, the governor, along with key officials in the agriculture sector, is set to determine and secure the final list of farmers needing all the support to produce, so a local fund source could be available for them in securing their planting seeds, in the eventuality that the said appeal would not prosper. (RAHC/PIA7 Bohol)

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Rey Anthony Chiu

Regional Editor

Region 7

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