Rice farmers in 59 municipal and city local government units (LGUs) in Bicol will benefit from the P3 billion-worth Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) beginning this dry season 2020.

At the Social Mobilization cum Consultation Among LGUs on RCEF-Seed Program Implementation for Camarines Sur Province held in DA Regional Field Office Compound Pili, Camarines Sur on August 23, 2019, PhilRICE-Bicol Project Development Officer II Glenn C. De Peralta and his team discussed the program particularly its scope and process flow to 22 Municipal Agriculturists in the province and their staff.

According to De Peralta, RCEF was created based on the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, which lifts the quantitative restriction on rice and replaces it with tariff. He mentioned that the Rice Fund established the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) designed to complement and supplement the existing DA-National Rice Program (DA-NRP).

To help improve the competitiveness and income of rice farmers along with other components of the RCEF such as mechanization, credit and extension, the six-year RCEF Seed Program will implement four component projects: 1. Promoting and distributing certified seeds of inbred rice varieties, 2. Mobilizing and strengthening local seed production, 3. Supporting variety development, and 4. Strengthening farmer organizations. These components aim to increase the adoption of certified inbred seeds and integrated crop management to contribute to the Philippine Rice Industry Roadmap of achieving an average yield of six tons per hectare in high- and five tons per hectare in medium-yielding provinces towards a rice secure Philippines. The RCEP is also projected to reduce production and marketing costs by 30 percent as well as postharvest losses.

The program covers a total of 75,400 hectares of rice area in 59 LGUs in the region with high potential for improving competitiveness—27 in Camarines Sur, 12 in Albay, 11 in Sorsogon and nine in Masbate. According to DA Rice Program Report Officer Arra Nicole Nicolas, these areas were selected based on their cumulative scores on various criteria including the size of area harvested, yield level, cost of production and share of irrigated area. Targeted RCEF areas were also verified by comparing data on area planted and area harvested to rice from the LGU, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM). Its initial implementation will focus on cities and municipalities with an annual area planted larger than 100 hectares as potential operation areas. For dry season 2020, only LGUs with areas greater than 500 hectares were allocated with RCEP funds because of budget constraints.

RCEP will benefit rice farmers who belong to a DA-accredited farmer organization or any accrediting government agency recognized by the DA, farmers listed in the DA-updated Registry System for the Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA), farmer-members whose rice farms can cover at least 20 hectares in total in one to two adjacent villages in one city or municipality and farming in rice fields located in the selected municipalities. Qualified farmers will receive free seeds initially for two consecutive planting seasons. For dry season 2020, a maximum of four bags containing 20 kilograms of seeds per bag will be given to farmers depending on farm size. Eligibility to receive seeds in the next program cycle shall depend on farmer organizations’ ability to achieve the yield target for the two seasons that they received free seeds.

Hector O. Llagas, Municipal Agriculturist of Bato, Camarines Sur said that this is a good news especially now that rice farmers are worried about the seeming imbalance in the country’s rice industry as buying price of fresh palay dropped to only P12 per kilogram as of August 2019.

“Medyo nangangamba ang mga rice farmers na dapat may maging suporta na programa galing sa gobyerno kung paano mapataas ang presyo ng bigas kasi yung nakikita nila parang hindi balanse ang sistema na kung saan laging mababa yung bilihan ng palay samantalang hindi natin makontrol ang pagbaba.Makakatulong itong RCEP kasi unang-una makaka-avail sila ng binhi na siguradong de-kalidad at least nakikita nila na may tulong o ayuda galing sa gobyerno,” he said.

Victoria C. Lapitan, PhilRICE-Bicol Branch Director sought the LGUs’ and partner agencies’ support to the RCEP particularly in validating potential beneficiaries.

“Pagtulungan po natin ang pagpapatupad ng programang ito… Using the RCEF, we will equip and capacitate farmers to increase production and reduce production cost,” she said.

The RCEF has an annual appropriation of 10 billion for the next six years. Fifty percent or P5 billion will be allocated to rice farm machineries and equipment to be released to and implemented by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), 30 percent or P3 billion will be downloaded to PhilRice for the rice seed development, propagation and promotion while 10 percent or P1 billion will go to expanded rice credit assistance with minimal interest rates and minimum collateral requirements to be managed by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). Ten percent or P1 billion of the RCEF will be made available for rice extension services under the PhilMech, PhilRice, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). #Masaganang Ani, Dagdag Kita (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS)

The Municipal Agriculturists of LGUs with RCEF Area Allocations in Camarines Sur pose for a photo with DA-Bicol Rice Coordinator Lorenzo Alvina (seated, center) and staff from PhilRICE.

PhilRICE-Bicol Project Development Officer II Glenn C. De Peralta discusses the legal basis of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program during the Social Mobilization cum Consultation Among LGUs on RCEF-Seed Program Implementation for Camarines Sur Province held in DA Regional Field Office Compound Pili, Camarines Sur on August 23, 2019.

Hector O. Llagas, Municipal Agriculturist of Bato, Camarines Sur, inquires about the eligibility criteria to avail of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program.

Photos by Hermito Antonio T. Privaldos, DA-RAFIS V and PhilRICE-Bicol