Higher volumes of hybrid rice seeds with higher purity and improved germination rate are what Bayer Crop Science promised to deliver as it inaugurated recently (Jan. 26, 2018) its $1.6 million seed conditioning line facility at its headquarters in Canlubang, Calamba City, Laguna.
Currently contributing 30 percent of the total hybrid rice seed supply in the Philippines, the company is targeting 30 percent increase in seed production annually in the coming years. This is necessary because from the current area of 500,000 hectares devoted to hybrid varieties today, the Department of Agriculture is targeting to increase the area to about one million hectares by 2020.
At the rate of 15 kilos of seeds per hectare, the one million-hectare target will require 15 million kilos of seeds. And since the average yield of two tons per hectare (2,000 kilos) for seed production, the target of one million hectares will require 7,500 hectares to produce the seeds required. Currently, much of the hybrid seeds in the market are sourced from abroad.But Bayer is embarking on a program of producing seeds locally. This year, it is starting with a production area of 100 hectares in Banay-banay, Davao del Sur. Each farmer cooperator plants only about one hectare so he could adequately attend to the strict requirements of rice seed production. Bayer experts will be constantly giving them technical guidance.
The company is also scouting for additional areas for the production of seeds in Luzon, according to Recher Ondap, Bayer’s head of Seeds (Philippines). Bayer’s new conditioning facility has a capacity of processing 3,000 tons a year or 3 million kilos. That is good for planting 200,000 hectares or 20 percent of the area targeted by the government.
DA Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan, who was asked by Sec. Manny Piñol to attend the inauguration of the facility in his behalf, stressed that the Philippines cannot afford to be depending largely on imported rice to ensure food supply. That would be very risky because nobody can be sure if there will be enough supply because of various factors like the impact of climate change which can trigger disastrous calamities like floods, typhoons, droughts and other stresses that can adversely affect rice production.
Cayanan pointed out that the volume of rice traded in the market today is just about 36 million tons and the 34 million of that is already committed. Hence, there is an urgent need to produce more rice locally.
The hybrid rice program of the government will not only ensure a more stable food supply. It will increase job opportunities, especially in the countryside that will result in what politicians and agribusiness experts call inclusive economic growth.
Farmers who are planting hybrid rice, especially the varieties with enhanced traits for high yields, can really make a good income. Take, for instance, Bayer’s Arize Bigante Plus which is tolerant to the bacterial leaf blight disease. It was the top yielder in the 4th National Rice Technology Forum Bicol cluster done in Balanguibang, Polangui, Albay in October 2016. The variety yielded 7.64 metric tons per hectare which gave a net income of P70,747 at a production cost of P36,213.
By the way, aside from Usec. Cayanan, the inauguration of the facility was attended by local government officials, seed distributors and other stakeholders. Aside from Recher Ondap, other top executives of the company included Amit Trikha, Bayer Crop Science Head of Seeds for the Asia Pacific, and Iiinas Ivan Lao, Country Commercial Lead of Bayer Crop Science, Inc.