The Department of Agriculture has launched a P192-million (M) community seed bank (CSB) and seed production program to enable farmers produce their requirement of certified seeds every cropping season.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the program, which forms part of the national food staples sufficiency program, will empower organized farmers’ groups and cooperatives, including Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), to produce their own certified or inbred rice seeds out of the registered rice seeds that will be distributed to them for free.
He said of the total program fund, P42M is allotted this year for the procurement and distribution of registered rice seeds, and the P150M is programmed next year for the establishment of CSBs in strategic rice production areas nationwide.
Of the P150M, P100M will be used to repair and refurbish existing storage facilities and warehouses managed by IAs, farmers’ groups, POs and NGOs, while the remaining P50M is allotted to repair existing DA warehouses and storage facilities which will also be used as CSBs.
Secretary Alcala announced the rice seed propagation project and establishment of CSBs during his recent regional field visits, including the three-day trip to eight provinces in Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon last week, where he committed more than P440M as initial assistance to enable typhoon-affected farmers, fishers and ruralfolk, and their respective areas recover and start anew.
The rice seed propagation project and establishment of CSB is part of the DA national rice program, headed by Director Dante Delima. He said the DA is currently distributing for free two kilos of registered rice seeds per hectare to qualified and participating farmers’ groups, cooperatives and IAs in major rice producing regions nationwide.
The two kilos of registered seeds are expected to produce six 40-kilo bags of certified seeds, which farmers could use for at least four cropping seasons, Delima said. Thereafter, the DA will provide them another fresh batch of registered seeds.
With the rice seed propagation scheme, Delima said the DA aims to train and empower farmers’ groups and IAs to produce quality seeds for their use and sale to other farmers. Further, the strategy is a better and cheaper way than providing rice subsidy every cropping season, Delima said.
He said the DA has started distributing at least 20 kilograms (kg) of registered seeds to qualified organized farmers’ associations, IAs, upland farmers’ organizations, and interested people’s organizations, and NGOs. They were selected by the respective DA-Regional Field Units in coordination with the host local government units.
To qualify under the seed propagation project, farmers’ groups should commit a seed production area of at least one-half hectare or 5,000 square meters for lowland irrigated area, or at least one-fourth hectare or 2,500 square meters for uplands.
Farmer-beneficiaries must train on the basics of rice seed production, and other related CSB operational matters.
Delima said farmer-beneficiaries are required to pay back in kind, which will serve as their buffer seed stock. The repayment scheme is 1.5 kilos of certified seeds for every 1 kilo of registered seeds borrowed—for those who wish to pay in full; or two kilos of certified seeds for every 1 kilo of registered seeds borrowed—for those availing of a ‘plant-now, pay-later’ scheme.
The collected certified seeds will be stored by their respective groups or IAs at a designated CSB and will be used in the next cropping season with the farmer-depositors as priority beneficiaries. Director Dante Delima, DA National Rice Program Coordinator