PH seeks P20B loan for hybrid rice program

19.10.2016

The Philippines will seek a P20-billion loan from China to finance its hybrid rice expansion to one million hectares, according to Henry Lim Bon Liong, SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) chairman.

Lim, a delegate of President Duterte’s state visit to China this week, said the loan is eyed to be fast-tracked in time for the ongoing planting.

Lim said assistance on Philippine agricultural development is part of the agenda of Duterte’s visit.

“We can get a soft loan from China to fund the one million hectares of hybrid rice expansion. This is from the Chinese government,” said Lim.

Lim said since hybrid rice planting is highly economically viable, a soft loan can well fund the expansion.

“It will be a fund for our agricultural development – for seeds. (Anyway), that’s only $500 million,” he said.

The dry season planting for harvest is March to May 2017.

“We have to capitalize on this present dry season,” said Lim, adding this presents the most ideal environment for hybrid rice planting as disease infestation, particularly of bacterial leaf blight, is low.

The subsidy of the Department of Agriculture has been traditionally set at 50 percent, around P2,300 per bag (one bag per hectare) of hybrid seeds. At just half of the targeted area, 500,000 hectares, this amounts to P1.15 billion.

SLAC has committed to produce hybrid rice seeds for 500,000 hectares, according to Lim.

“We (SLAC alone) has a target to supply to 500,000 hectares for the year (crop year 2016-2017, dry and wet seasons),” said Lim.  

“That’s possible because we have achieved 320,000 hectares the previous year,” he added.

SLAC has been pushing in the last 15 years for government support for hybrid rice expansion since at one time the country’s rice imports had skyrocketed to around P45 billion.

If hybrid rice expansion is financed, farmers can earn at least P100,000 per hectare from hybrids.

“If we have one million hectares for hybrid, we will be sufficient. Beyond one million hectares, we will be an exporter,” said Lim. Land should be allotted at 800,000 hectares in the dry season and 200,000 hectares, wet.

Hybrid rice farmers can earn P100,000 to P150,000 per hectare with a production cost of P30,000 to P35,000 per hectare using hybrids as they are able to harvest 9 to 10 metric tons per hectare, a significant gain compared to the national average rice yield of just close to 4 MT per hectare.

From 2005 to 2010, Lim said government imported 800,000 to 1.2 million MT of rice yearly. Import cost was P18 billion to P34 billion a year. At one time, this shot up to P50 billion when traded rice price soared to around $1,000 per MT.

From the present 18.15 million MT paddy rice (palay) production, this annual production level will increase by 1.6 million MT with one million hectares for hybrids.

Present hybrid area is around 400,000 to 500,000 hectares out of total harvested rice area of 4.65 million hectares.

 With only a P4.5 billion yearly budget for hybrid seeds (P4,500 per hectare for one million hectares), the Philippines can become rice sufficient, Lim said.

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