Organic rice as high-yielding as hybrid variety, NGOs tell government

By Manuel T. Cayon

Businessmirror, May 1, 2007



DAVAO CITY—Rice grown in organic farms are as productive as hybrid rice and cost lower by half, and therefore government should stop "putting all its stakes on hybrid rice technology that is very dangerous," a national network of rice protection groups said.


A mapping of rice farms across the country using nonchemical input practices have indicated that "selected case studies proved that higher yields are achievable in sustainable agriculture practices and technologies," the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said.


Based on farmers' accounts gathered by the group, chemical farming in Luzon has an average yield of 4.5 tons per hectare with production cost of P19,194. The yield in the Visayas was lower at 3.5 tons per hectare but with a higher production cost of P26,990.


The farmers' gross incomes for the two island groups growing hybrid rice were P49,500 and P35,000, but the net income of Visayas farmers were lower at P8,010 compared with P30,306 of the Luzon farmers.


On the other hand, net incomes of farmers using several forms of organic farming varied but all were higher than what the Luzon farmers earn from their hybrid farms.


For example, farmers applying the low external input sustainable agriculture (Leisa) technology, a transition from hybrid to organic farm, reported yielding 4.5 tons per hectare, similar to the yield of hybrid rice grown by Luzon farmers.


But the R1 said production cost was much lower at only P12,670, and farmers would net P36,830, an income 47 percent higher than their Luzon counterparts growing hybrid rice.


With the more extensive organic farming called System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the yield was much higher at six tons per hectare. The R1 said that the SRI trial conducted by the Agriculture Training Institute in Cotabato in the summer of 2002 "showed that the cost of production was as high as P25,150 for a hectare of land."


"However, the resulting net income was as high as P74,850," the R1 said.


The R1 said that the Leisa and the SRI were among the different forms of sustainable agricultural practices, or organic farming, that also included biodynamic farming applied in the farms of south and north Cotabato, the Diversified and Integrated Farming Technology applied in different areas nationwide, the Masipag Rice Technology (MRT) and Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Development and Use.


"And organic farming of various forms are being practiced in almost all provinces, and in some areas are also being supported by their local governments," said Arma Birtuso, vice chairperson of Sarilaya, one of the major groups based in Quezon City and comprising the network of the R1.


Although Birtuso said that there was no benchmark yet on how widespread the practice was of organic farming that grows rice, she said that the mapping made by R1 in 2005 indicated that organic farming remained a practical choice for many farmers.


The R1 was on its last leg here of mapping the different forms of organic farming practices before consolidating its report to be presented to government policymakers. The R1 conducted on Thursday and Friday here the Mindanao Consultation on Sustainable Agriculture Mapping.


Shubert Ciencia, R1 co-convenor, said that the consolidated report would be used by the network to persuade government to shift their support from hybrid rice technology that depletes the land of its fertile nutrients in the long run, to organic and more sustainable farming.


"Government has alloted a large slice of its budget to hybrid rice technology that was touted to be a breakthrough in improving rice productivity. However the country continues to rely on rice importation to meet the domestic needs," he said.


In any shortfall of production, Ciencia said that government often blamed the typhoons "for the sorry state of the rice farming sector."


Ciencia said that the network would mount another episode of lobbying in Congress "to ensure a national policy legislation in favor of sustainable organic farming and putting appropriate budget for it, and widen support among local government units."




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