Philippines: Rice Research Needs New Direction to Overcome Rice Crisis

Why are we still importing and not producing rice?  

This is the question posed by Dr. Adolfo Necesito, a retired Agronomy Professor at the University of the Philippine Los Baños, during his presentation at SEARCA’s ADSS on 1 February 2011. His presentation on the Rise & Fail of Rice Research and Development on Production Technology in the Philippines highlighted the shortcomings of Philippine institutions and scientists in its research activities toward rice self-sufficiency.  

The current local production of rice is not sufficient to meet the country’s consumption demand, thus the Government has increased the quantities of rice imports. The Philippines is among the lowest producer of rice with only four tons per hectare yield, according to the Department of Agriculture. In 2005, the Government extended the four percent “quantitative restriction”, or the minimum required rice imports, under the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade with the World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).  

Dr. Necesito observed that countries like the Philippines lacked the favorable geographical and ecological environments needed for producing high yields in rice, environments that can be found in subtropical to sub-temperate countries. These inherent characteristics may also be limiting the Philippines in obtaining the best response to the introduction of new varieties and production technologies from other countries. He says that “(these) should be emphasized to policymakers and politicians as natural limitations to achieving high yield”.  

He goes on to say that the early years of rice research in the country have been able to surpass the old yield barrier of 1.5 tons per hectare (ha) to 5 tons per ha. This was done through focused R&D on high-yielding varieties, fertilizers, and production techniques. However, during the 80’s through the 90’s, R&D initiatives have been nagged with decreasing rice yield, due in part to the change in donors’ emphasis for sustainable agriculture and environment conservation. Both the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) launched news projects using the new plant type (NPT) approach to break the new yield barrier of 10 tons per ha.  

However, in a review of recent joint rice research projects in Asia, Dr. Necesito noted that the Philippines seems to be involved in researches that are mostly not applicable to the country, while those projects that are greatly related to the Philippine situation are not supported by its institutions.  
He cited as example a project on rice-wheat systems that the Philippines, a non-wheat country, participated in, together with wheat-producing countries in Southeast Asia. Another is a joint project with IRRI on post-harvest technology; which is actively participated by Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR. The Philippines, however, did not.  

Recent joint international programs conducted by IRRI with important rice exporting countries like Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, or Indonesia, emphasized intensive research works designed for an integrated and holistic approach to rice production technology. Exporting countries like Indonesia are also focusing on nutrient formulation management studies. While the Philippines still relied mainly on breeding and variety development.  
He also said the country in a gold mine for rice research, however, there seems to be no considerable effort to consolidate a comprehensive technical research information database into one national guideline.  

“The current international commitments in rice research are mostly beyond the Philippine application. It maybe well for the Philippines to look MORE inward on what it needs other than being an ecological niche of research interests.” said Dr. Necesito. (Regine Joy P. Evangelista)

The point of view taken by this article is entirely that of the presenter's and does not reflect in any way, SEARCA’s position.

{jcomments on}