Porfirio Caagbay, 67, of Tayabas, Quezon, used to harvest an average of 4 tons of palay (unhusked rice) without using fertilizer.
This current main season, with fertilizer support from the Department of Agriculture (DA), the veteran farmer looks forward to harvesting 2 tons more, as he will apply at least four 50-kilo bags of urea fertilizers.
Caagbay is one of the thousands of farmers in Quezon who have availed of free fertilizers through the “buy two, take two” scheme under the DA’s Rice Resiliency Project (RRP).
The RRP forms part of the umbrella program of the DA, popularly called, “Plant, Plant, Plant,” which aims to increase adequacy levels in food, particularly rice, from 87% in 2019 to at least 94% by end of 2020.
Agriculture secretary William Dar joined Mang Porfirio in applying urea fertilizer on his rice farm, where he expects to harvest at most 120 cavans per hectare in October, which is 40 cavans more than his previous years’ output.
Joining them were Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, DA Region 4-A director Arnel de Mesa, Tayabas Mayor Ernida Reynoso, and provincial agriculturist and administrator Roberto Gajo, who represented Governor Danilo Suarez.
While in Tayabas, Dar led a farmers’ forum, where he assured farmers of the continued strong support of President Rodrigo Duterte to increase their productivity and incomes through the RRP and the Plant, Plant, Plant program.
“The Philippines is one of the countries in the world that has very low fertilizer utilization, and subsequently low crop yields.”
The agriculture chief said the DA embarked on providing free fertilizers to rice farmers this main season because the Philippines is one of the countries in the world that has very low fertilizer utilization, and subsequently low crop yields.
“Ang rekomendasyon po sa paggamit ng abono sa palay kada ektarya ay 96 kilo. On the average, ang nailalagay lamang natin ay 48 kilo. Ito po ang dahilan kaya mababa ang inaani nating palay. Kaya naman kami sa DA ay tutulong upang itaas ang ani ng ating mga magsasaka sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng libreng abono,” the agriculture head said.
During the forum, he led the handover to Quezon farmers of more than P36 million worth of assistance such as farm machinery, fertilizers, seeds, native chicken, and livestock animals, among others.
Dar also handed over P25 million worth of credit assistance to Quezon rice farmers under the Expanded Survival and Recovery Assistance Program (SURE Aid) being implemented by the DA through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), led by director Jocelyn Badiola.
The P25 million fund is coursed through two DA-ACPC partner lending conduits, namely: Yakap at Halik Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) of Dolores (P15 million); and Legarda MPC of Polilio Island (P10 million).
Farmers can borrow up to P25,000, with no collateral, zero interest, and payable in 10 years.
Under the DA-ACPC SURE Aid program, farmers can borrow up to P25,000, with no collateral, zero interest, and payable in 10 years.
In closing, he said the agriculture sector is one of the major drivers that will help the Philippine economy bounce back and reboot from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and onto the “new normal.”