PILI, CAMARINES SUR – Amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic, and several typhoons that hit Bicol in the last quarter of 2020, palay and corn production in the Bicol Region for the first quarter (Q1) of 2021 increased by 7.93% and 12.55% respectively, Philippine Statistics Authority recent report shows.

The regional palay production in Bicol reached 275,074 MT in Q1 of 2021 registering a 7.93% increment (20,218 MT increase) from last year’s 254,856 MT production for the same three-month period.Only two provinces (Albay and Camarines Sur) registered production increments in palay in Q1 of 2021: Albay’s palay production increased by 10,008 MT or a staggering 29.79% increase at 43,607 MT. Camarines Sur’s palay production increased by 13,112 MT (9.6% increase) at 148,602 MT. Camarines Sur’s rice area comprised 52% of the total rice area of Bicol region.

DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla attributed the increase in rice production to the resiliency of the Bicolano farmers amidst calamities and the on-going pandemic and adoption of appropriate technologies such as the use of high yielding varieties and fertilization.

Lorenzo Alvina, Rice and Corn Program regional coordinator attributed the production growth to the 4.54% increase in area harvested or additional 3,129 hectares in Q1 of 2021, from 68, 889 hectares in Q1 2020 to 72,018 hectares in Q1 of 2021; and to the almost 30% growth in Albay’s rice production.

He also attributed Albay’s increase in production to its high utilization of hybrid and certified seeds. The province was not heavily affected by flooding brought by several typhoons that visited Bicol region in the last quarter of 2020, Alvina added. Furthermore, the lesser drought occurrence despite the La Niña phenomenon was favorable to rainfed areas during the first quarter.

Four provinces of Bicol recorded growth in area harvested to rice in Q1 of 2021 – Camarines Sur increased by 1,750 hectares (4.9%) at 37,480 has. In 2021; Albay increased by 545 hectares at 10,755 has;; Camarines Norte increased by 140 hectares at 6,329 has.; and Catanduanes increased its rice area by 854 hectares at 2,919 has even if three typhoons battered this island.

Despite the increase in area harvested to palay in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte, palay production in said provinces as well as in Masbate and Sorsogon declined in the first quarter as a result of three typhoons numerous typhoons that passed through Bicol Region in the last quarter of 2020.

Alvina attributed the overall production increase of Bicol to the massive distribution of inbred rice seeds under RCEF for Dry Season 2020-2021. Under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a total of 129,045 bags (20kg/bag) of inbred certified palay seeds were distributed to 56,018 rice farmers.

The DA also provided Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF) worth P317.4 Million to a total of 63,476 RSBSA registered rice farmers in four provinces included in RCEF in 2020.

Meanwhile, under the Rice Resiliency Program (RRP) II, a total of 72,383 bags were distributed (20,000 bags Inbred Certified Seeds and 52,383 bags Hybrid Seeds) to 77,048 rice farmers covering 72,074 rice areas. P211M worth of fertilizer vouchers were released benefiting 85,641 farmers in 88,791.95 rice areas.

Additional 592 hectares new rice areas were also irrigated in 2020 with the completion of 13 units diversion dam and 8 units irrigation canal. Also, 55 hectares of rice areas were revived with the rehabilitation of 1unit Small Water Impounding Project (SWIP)in Camarines Norte and 1 diversion dam in Albay.

Corn Production

Corn production for Q1 of 2021 reached 58,562 MT, higher by 6,533.93 MT or 12.55% from last year’s 52,028 MT corn production in the same period.

All provinces except Masbate registered an increase in corn production in Q1 of 2021. Albay’s corn production reached 7,010 MT, higher by 1,336 MT (23.5% increase). Camarines Sur got 37,503 MT which is higher by 5,155 MT (15.93% increase). Camarines Norte got 661 MT in Q1 of 2021, which is higher by 31 MT (5% increase). Catanduanes recorded an all time high increase of 216% in corn production despite the typhoons in 2020, at 107.65 MT. Sorsogon’s corn production increased by 50% or 35MT at 104.45 MT in Q1 of 2021.

Masbate’s corn production declined at 13,176MT in Q1 of 2021.

Alvina said that the increase in corn production may be attributed to the additional 1,961 hectares or 7.12% increase in area harvested to corn in Bicol. Bicol’s area harvested to corn reached 29,486 hectares as all six provinces as a result of expansion in corn area.

Alvina also cited the increase in adoption of genetically modified (GM) hybrid corn which is less susceptible to Fall Army Worm attack.

The Corn program also provided various support services, interventions on production and post-harvest, farm mechanization and capacity building through clustering and strengthening of farmers’ associations and coops. There are 57 corn clusters in Bicol as of this writing.

In Q4 of 2020, the Corn Program distributed 4,291 bags GM corn seeds which covered 2,145 hectares; 190 packs sweet corn seeds which covered 32 hectares to support food production during pandemic. Other interventions provided to farmers were 5 units tractor, 4 units corn planter, 1 unit recirculating dryer and 6 units PISOS. (Lovella P. Guarin / photos by Jun Collantes)