Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol checks a rice field during his earlier visit in San Roque, Northern Samar.
(Department of Agriculture photo)

TACLOBAN CITY- The Department of Agriculture (DA) has set aside P40 million initial funding to kick-off the rice seed production project in San Roque, Northern Samar, turning a poor town into one of the country’s biggest rice seed production areas.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol led on Friday(Feb.22) the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the farm department, the local government of San Roque town, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and some stakeholders.
The DA Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has an initial allocation of P40 million to provide loans for the seed production program. Seed produce will supply the rice seeds requirements of about 200,000 hectares of rice fields in Samar and Leyte.
San Roque, a 4th class town located 280 kilometers north of this city, will produce high-value premium rice varieties like RC 218, RC 300 and RC 160.
“The project is expected to turn San Roque’s primitive rice farming system where the traditional method is still being used by farmers into a model farming area, which will use solar irrigation, farm machinery, laser-guided field leveler, drones and a computerized geo-tagging and data encoding for farmers participating in the program,” Piñol said in a post on his social media account.
The project, with the guidance of the PhilRice, will grow rice seed varieties which are adaptable to the conditions and climate of Samar and Leyte.
“A group of farmers from my home province of North Cotabato will lead the development of the 200-hectare seed production nucleus farm, which will serve as a learning center for the farmers of San Roque,” Piñol added.
Blessed with abundant water and fertile soil, San Roque has been identified as an ideal area for the project mainly because of the support of local officials led by Mayor Don Abalon.
The rice seeds production is the main component of Samar Island Rice Development Program (SRDP), which aims to make Samar Island as one of the country’s major rice-producing areas.
The SRDP will be the first major beneficiary of the newly-signed Rice Tarrification Law, with an estimated PHP10-billion fund for 2019.
The project seeks to introduce new rice farming technologies and equipment to develop areas and contribute to bigger national rice production and poverty reduction in Samar Island.
From the current average of two metric tons per hectare average yield in the island, the SRDP targets an average production of six metric tons by introducing high-yielding rice varieties developed by PhilRice, commercial hybrid seeds, and solar irrigation systems.
By 2020, the SRDP is expected to contribute an estimated 1.2 million metric tons of paddy rice for national production. (PNA)