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DAVAO CITY - The Province of North Cotabato and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will launch a program dubbed as "Quick Turn-Around" Plan for Rice Production next week.

Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that the coordination meeting on Monday, with Governor Nancy A. Catamco and Agriculture Assistant Secretary for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARRM) Dr. Sailila Abdula representing the PhilRice based in Midsayap, Cotabato, resulted in a positive feedback about the program.

North Cotabato is ranked No. 8 among the Top 10 Rice Producing Provinces of the Philippines posting a production of 500,000 metric tons in 2017 when the country posted its highest production in history of 19.28-Million metric tons.

The "Quick Turn-Around Plan" for the Rice Industry of Mindanao was crafted in view of the projected tight supply of rice in the country resulting from the announced intentions of major exporting countries to stop or limit their exports as a result of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The program will be replicated in other rice-producing provinces of Mindanao targeting an area of 100,000 hectares for the Ratooning Program and 200,000 hectares for the irrigated and upland areas.

Piñol said that MinDA, in coordination with the local government units (LGU), will implement the program with the expected support from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“The Quick Turn-Around Plan aims to produce additional rice before the onset of the lean months which start July and stretches up to October to avert a feared shortfall in rice supply in Mindanao,” he said.

He added that the program aimed at producing additional rice supply to avert an expected shortage of the staple food during the lean months.

“Now in North Cotabato then it will later be cascaded in other provinces of Mindanao,” Piñol added.

He said that the "Quick Turn-Around Plan" involves the following: Ratooning Program for newly-harvested rice fields, early planting program using high yielding hybrid or inbred rice seeds in areas covered by the big, small and communal irrigation service areas and expanded upland rice and rain-fed farming areas using a new hybrid rice variety, TH 82, which could be sown in dry field without the need for irrigation water.

Rice Ratooning is as old as rice farming in the Philippines. It is actually the second growth of rice which allows the farmer to have a second harvest in just a little over two months cutting production period by about two months.

“The only downside to this technology for rice is that the harvest is usually only 1/3 of the harvest of the normal planting process while the upside is that there is a Quick Turn-Around because there is no need for the farmer to till and prepare the field and sow seeds or plant again,” he added.

“This new hybrid rice variety has been field-tested by the Department of Agriculture as early as 2018 and has submitted yield records of between eight to ten metric tons,” Piñol said.

He also added that he already sent a letter to DA Secretary William Dar and Secretary Karlo Alexis Nograles, Chairman of NIA asking for support.

He said that he has asked DA for the early release of the Inbred Rice Seeds under the RCEP and additional financial support for the LGUs participating in the program like Hybrid Seeds and Fertilizer.

For NIA, Piñol requested for the early release of irrigation water in systems where water is still available and to defer any maintenance and repair works for the next season.

“The success of the program, however, would be dependent on the support of both the DA and NIA,”

He also said that the LGUs will be at the forefront of the program and they are expected to use their Calamity Funds to fund the Quick Turn-Around Plan.

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