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Negros going organic rice

January 17, 2011


January 13, 2011, 12:39am


MANILA, Philippines – The organic rice producers in Negros Occidental are upbeat these days. These are small-scale farmers who only cultivate a few hectares or even less than one hectare. But their project could be viable businesswise because organic rice is a high-value product which is becoming increasingly in demand by more and more people who are health-conscious.

Last Saturday more than 20 of the organic rice farmers from Bago City, Binalbagan, Silay City and many others met with Ramon Uy who last year put up the Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation aimed at helping farmers to become more entrepreneurial and businesslike in their farming.

During the meeting, the rice farmers and Eco-Agri agreed that the farmers’ organic palay will be bought at a guaranteed price of P18 per kilo, payable in cash right after delivery. Eco-Agri will buy all the farmers’ organic palay which it will mill and sell through its own marketing network. Eco-Agri will also fabricate a village level mill that will be used exclusively for milling organic rice.

One of the attendees was Fr. Sol Puentespina of Binalbagan who is helping farmers by educating them to produce crops the natural farming way. This means teaching them practical ways of making their own fertilizers and pest control concoctions such as fermented plant and fruit juices, use of indigenous microorganisms, vermicompost, vermi tea and others.

Another attendee was Pastor Jerry A. Dionson who heads the Humayan Ministry in Brgy. Busay, Bago City. Bago, he said, is the rice bowl of Negros. In the last few years, he and his farmers have been converting former conventional rice fields into organic rice farms. So far, they have converted 10.5 hectares to organic rice farms now worked by six farmers.

The shift from conventional rice farming takes at least three years. No chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used. Instead, the field should be well prepared. At least five passes of the power tiller are made. The field is sprayed three times with indigenous microorganisms (IMO). Certified seeds are used and properly germinated and transplanted. After leveling the field, 2 to 2.5 tons of vermicast are applied per hectare. The rice plants are then regularly sprayed with fermented plant and fruit juices, calcium phosphate and others.

During the first year of rehabilitation, Dionson said they got only 75 cavans per hectare. By 2009, however, the average yield increased to 128 cavans per hectare. That’s a very profitable yield because the cost of production could be as low as P14,700 per hectare.

The organic rice advocates believe there is really good money to be made in organic rice farming. Especially so with the assured price set by the farmers themselves and accepted by Eco-Agri Foundation.

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