Press Release
February 26, 2010

Villar: New rice varieties can boost rice production
Increased rice yields crucial in alleviating poverty

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar, whose key platform of government focuses on agriculture and poverty alleviation, is keen on helping Filipino farmers tap new innovations and state-of-the-art technology including new rice varieties that can help them improve rice production.

"I intend to implement a renaissance in the country's agriculture sector. Food security and poverty alleviation are closely linked to agriculture, so we will focus on helping farmers," said Villar.

Villar is batting for improved rice production in order to meet long-delayed rice self-sufficiency targets of the country. "We used to export rice to other countries, now we are the biggest importer of rice," deplored the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

It is estimated that Filipinos consume 11.9 million metric tons of rice every year. Due to insufficient rice production, about two million metric tons of rice are imported from other countries, which is funded by the government by an estimated P50 billion.

Villar said he intends to tap the expertise of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to carry out programs and projects that will help farmers. He lauded IRRI and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) on their discovery of rice varieties that can survive flooding, salinity, and drought.

"Alam naman natin na ang mga nagdaang bagyo ay malaki ang pinsalang dinala sa maraming palayan. Ngayon naman, ang matinding tagtuyot ang problema ng mga magsasaka. The new varieties of rice can help farmers recoup their losses and improve rice yields," said Villar.

IRRI data shows rice yields in 2009 were at 3.59 tons per hectare, lower than the level in 2008 of 3.77 tons per hectare due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Last year, IRRI announced the discovery of submergence-tolerant materials that will produce new rice hybrids such as "sub1 or submarine rice," which can withstand being submerged in flood for weeks. There is also the so-called "aerobic rice" that can be planted in mountainous areas and does not need much water or irrigation.

Filipino farmers, IRRI cited, have adopted over 75 high-yielding rice varieties since 1960 that have greatly improved their fertilizer and pest management strategies.

Villar is pushing for financial assistance and credit line facilities to help farmers in their expenses particularly fertilizers. He earlier called on the government to condone the multi-billion-peso debts that farmers have incurred from irrigation fees to help them cope with the drought that has dried up farms all over the country.

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