Tuesday, August 19, 2014

R & D funding boosts rice yields by 25% -- book

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija - Research and development (R & D) initiatives in rice have boosted harvests of the staple by a whopping 25%.

          This was revealed by a recently released book on rice security and poverty reduction.

          The book, entitled “Securing Rice, Reducing Poverty,” was authored by then Southeast Asian Regional Center for Agriculture (SEARCA) Director and now National Economic and Development Authority Chief Arsenio Balisacan among others.

          In the book, Balisacan and his co-authors underscored the need to  increased R & D budget in rice to close the yield gaps often attributed to weeds, pests, and diseases, which can very well be addressed by stepping up research initiatives.

          Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), concurred with the findings of the book's authors and stressed that increasing the budget for rice R & D not only boosts production but also improves the overall income of farmers.

          Historically, research expenditure as a proportion of (Gross Domestic Product (GDP) allocation in the Philippines on R&D has  been inferior to its neighbors.

          Citing data from the 2009 World Competitiveness Yearbook, Prof. Teodoro Mendoza of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said the Philippines allocated only 0.12% of its GDP to R&D, much lower compared with Malaysia and Thailand which allocated 0.64% and 0.20%, respectively.

          A separate report by the International Food Policy Research Institute based in Washington, D.C. and the Bangkok-based Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions both noted the "rather slow-paced improvement in public spending on R&D in the Philippines relative to other countries."

          In their July 2013 report, Vietnam is reported to have increased its public spending on R&D by over 270%, from $23million in 1996 to $86 million in 2008.

          On the other hand, the Philippines spent a a much higher $133 million on R & D in 2008, up from $129 million in 1996. However, percentage-wise, this represents a scant 3% increase in spending.

          The increase in state spending on R&D having a major impact on rice productivity is most evident in the case of Vietnam where rice yield dramatically increased from 3.77 tons per hectare in 1996 to 4.89 tons/ha in 2008, making it the second highest rice producer in the region next only to China.

          PhilRice economists Sergio Francisco and Flordeliza Bordey, wirting in a paper entitled “Investments in Research, Development, and Extension: Implications on TFP,” said underfunding in public agricultural Research Development and Extension (RD & E) has become “pervasive and persistent.”

          They said such under investment slows down productivity.

          In 2007, an external review conducted to assess the impact of PhilRice, which has been conducting R & D researches to increase farmers' harvests, showed  that the farmers have benefited from the cost-reducing and yield-enhancing technologies developed by the institute. (Manny Galvez)

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