The Bicol Farmer and Double Talk on Rice

Many farmers still rely on farm animals, plant and harvest rice without the help of mechanized farm implements and machineries. Devoid of irrigation support, they have to wait and rely for the rain.

In time of domestic rice shortages, to whom the Philippine government rely more often than not. Or at least, for the immediate past year? No, not the Filipino farmer, are you kidding me!

It’s the country across the southern China sea.

The now progressive communist country of Vietnam produces so much that it had a good overflowing supply of rice for the export market, the Pinoy country included as a constant customer. Last year the Philippines imported 2.6 million metric tons of rice from them.

Vietnam has a fully mechanized agricultural system, considered one of the most advanced among member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Vietnamese republic instituted reform when it totally discouraged importation of used farm implements from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan.

Instead, it leads a government effort of encouraging local entrepreneurs on the research, development and competition for excellent machinery for productive farmland cultivation and production.

The Vietnam rice production boom experience was boosted with the appointment of dedicated government expert farm technicians encouraged to live for specified period of time with an assigned group of farmers in every community. The transfer of knowledge and technology is constant, effective, direct and unhampered.

To date, there are about fifteen million Nam farmers involved in mixed farming methodology. While they are engaged in rice production, farm hands are also involved in aquaculture, livestock production, and cash crops cultivation. This makes the community abuzz with farm activities all throughout the year. Also with the total support and monitoring by the government.

Rice paddies in Vietnam get a good water supply through a network of irrigation systems with the water source coming from the Mekong river.

When PNOy visited Vietnam he was amazed at these data. He complimented the host country by releasing a statement that Filipino farmers could learn from our overseas neighbor on how to grow rice and other crops and end our dependence on imports.

It might be a casual remark but a slap on the face to the Filipino farmers, particularly the Bicolano farmers. Perhaps, it was just to compliment the Vietnamese host and nothing more.

But a short sighted comment, maybe fed by his staff who are many times too naive and still adjusting (Kung bakong nale, lawi) having been in their new office for just a few months, which is not a respectable reason to make flaws. Remember the tweet on the wine served and the street traffic in Hanoi?

For how can one forget that in the beginning the Vietnamese government, had sent their people to study at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Laguna to study the modern technology of cultivating rice and the selection of productive varieties as well.

Even students from countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia and other south east Asian countries, learned from IRRI for the same purpose. Perhaps the knowledge and technology transfer was taken deeply into mind and heart that their respective governments implemented what was taught at IRRI.

(Incidentally, IRRI is celebrating 50 years of its founding in the country.)

Having witnessed what Vietnam has achieved, can the new administration emulate them instead? Like, an all out government support to the Filipino/Bicolano farmers.

Of the existing ricelands in the country, less than half-million hectares enjoy the benefit of irrigation-support. All others rely on the water supply brought about by the rain.

These farm lands are called rain-fed, which totally limits rice cultivation once in every year instead of the possible thrice yearly rice production.

We also note here that many more ricelands are being phased out, being converted to industrial-commercial-residential endeavors. Look at the ricelands in capital town of Pili now the site of the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex.

The Pinoy rice farmer can only do so much given the limited resources and government incentives and infrastructure support. Enough with press talk and pogi points. More of real and honest actions. Please.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *