P20-per-kilo rice attainable with ramped up 'Masagana' program, says solon

At a glance

  • Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte (In photo, 3rd from left) believes that a ramped up version of the old Masagana 99 program would help President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (rightmost) achieve his goal of pulling down the price of rice to P20 a kilo.

  • (Photo from Facebook)

The potential revival of the Masagana 99 program should have a higher target yield of palay (unhusked rice) in order to fulfill President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s election campaign promise of P20-per-kilo rice.

Thus, said administration solon Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte, majority leader of the powerful Commission on Appointments.

“The DA’s (Department of Agriculture) new strategy to significantly boost palay yields and meet President Marcos’ goal of attaining rice self-sufficiency in two years’ time should clear the way to the revival of the Masagana 99 program, which our Chief Executive’s father launched in 1973 to address a then-nationwide rice shortage," Villafuerte said, referring to the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

However, with the average yield of big producers like China reaching about 6.5 metric tons (MT) per hectare, Villafuerte said “The target of the proposed Masagana redux is to produce at least 129 cavans a hectare instead of 99 cavans.”

"Higher palay yields will boost domestic supply of the staple, eventually pulling down its market rate to possibly as low as P20 a kilo as hoped for by the President," noted the Bicolano, who recently hosted Marcos in the latter’s visit to Camarines Sur.

Last March 16, Marcos launched the Kadiwa ng Pangulo center, the first such retail outlet in Bicol. Marcos is the concurrent DA secretary.

There are now over 500 Kadiwa outlets nationwide that sell cheaper basic goods--including rice at P25 a kilo--and at the same time provide direct market access to local farmers and producers.

Marcos Sr.'s Masagana 99 enabled the country to become rice self-sufficient by 1975 and to even export the crop over the 1977 to 1978 period, according to Villafuerte.

Masagana 99 managed to achieve that by promoting the use of the high-yielding “miracle rice’ variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquartered in Los Baños, Laguna. From 40 canvans per hectare, the palay production was raised to 99 cavans under the program.

“But given last month’s decision by...Marcos to adopt higher-yielding hybrid seeds as a better option to the certified or inbred varieties now being used for palay production, the government’s goal of self-sufficiency after two years could be attained should a Masagana redux program target a production yield of at least 129 cavans each hectare, which is almost the average of the world’s largest producer China,” Villafuerte said.

He also said that, to ensure an even better Masagana program this time around, “The DA should work on crafting a supervised credit program that would be affordable for the would-be farmer-beneficiaries and at the same time be sustainable for both the government and the new program’s creditor-institutions.”

Rice is the staple food of Filipinos.