SAMAR PROVINCES EYED AS RICE PRODUCTION AREAS
The Island of Samar comprised of the Provinces of Western, Northern and Eastern Samar is now the focus of interventions by the Department of Agriculture as it aims to open up new rice production areas.
“With a total land area of 1.3-million hectares with an agricultural area of 526,000 hectares, numerous huge rivers and less typhoons hitting it now, Samar has been identified as the expansion area for rice production,” Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol said.
He said Samar is one of several Southern Areas targeted for rice development as the DA employs a strategic shift because of the frequency of destructive typhoons hitting Northern Luzon.
Other areas included in the "Southern Swing" strategy are Leyte, Negros Island, Bohol, Panay, Palawan, Mindoro and Mindanao.
“The DA aims to open 300,000 hectares of new areas for rice to compensate for the losses suffered by Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley and Ilocos Region because of typhoons,” the agri chief said.
He said Samar proves to be the most challenging area because of the primitive farming system still embraced by farmers.
“Today, I saw along the way a farmer using a Power Tiller which strangely only had one blade,” Pinol said.
DA VIII Acting Director Andrew Orais said the system is called "Payatak" where the farmer does not really plow the field but simply muddles to make it muddy.
The result is a very low productivity of less than 2-metric tons per hectare.
The DA has already introduced high yielding rice varieties by conducting a rice derby last year.
Three varieties, one of which yielded almost 10 metric tons, have been identified as recommended varieties.
Another critical component is mechanization as there are very few farm equipment in Samar.
“This early, I have asked Director Orais to gather young agriculture graduates so that they could be organized into service provider groups/ They could be trained to operate the machinery and equipment which could be loaned to them payable in 8 years with 2% interest per year,” he said.
“Hopefully, in two years I will not be seeing the "Payatak" system in Samar. What I hope to see would be tractors, transplanters and harvesters in the field and yields of up to 8 metric tons per hectare,” Pinol said.