With the increasing population and lesser land available for agriculture, the self-sufficiency of the country for rice production is becoming more difficult to achieve. Aside from this, there are pressing issues in rice production that our country needs to address, in which the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)-Department of Agriculture (DA) strives to seek solutions.
Ms. Rhemelyn Z. Relado, Director, PhilRice-Los Baños, discussed these issues and among others on her lecture entitled “Population, Food Security and Climate change” during the ENS 270 (Dynamics of Population, Resources and Environment) class last September 25, 2019 at the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). Drs. Ma Victoria O. Espaldon and Janice B. Sevilla-Nastor who are co-coordinators of the ENS 270 class this semester, invited Ms. Relado to enlightened the students on the issues hounding the rice industry today.
Ms. Relado, is the youngest director to be appointed at the age of 36 at PhilRice. She finished AB Sociology in UPLB and MS in Agriculture and Extension Education at Pennsylvania State University, USA. She also completed her Master in Management at Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) with highest honors in 2016. She is the project leader of the Statistical Series on the Rice Economy of PhilRice, which updates rice statistics and information of the country.
She said while PhilRice continues to work with individual farmers, they are also tasked to support the rice industry as a whole for the country’s competitiveness. “We are already aware with the fact that before, the Thais and the Vietnamese studied agriculture here in the Philippines, particularly here in UPLB and look what happened, they successfully applied their knowledge in their respective countries, thus improving their rice production”, Ms. Relado stressed.
The country’s problem for the dwindling land for rice plantation was also discussed. “Based on our study, our country feeds 21 individuals per hectare, as to compared to Thailand, which only feeds seven individuals per hectare”, she said.
The country’s rice farmers is also aging and becoming less and less also, according to Ms. Relado. The average of farmers now is 55 years old, based on the latest statistics of PhilRice, which interviewed 4,000 farmers across the country, she added.
Based on their interview, most children of the farmers are not following their father’s footsteps, as working in the rice field is laborious and less appealing for the younger age. She also said most parents now encourage their children to enroll other courses in college, instead of taking agriculture.
Their study also indicated that young agriculture graduates also find it difficult to teach farmers about new technologies and methods. With an average of 28 years of work experience, Filipino farmers feel their skills are already proven and very effective for their job, compared to the knowledge earned by the younger generation.
As PhilRice continues to provide support for research and development in rice production, Ms. Relado hopes that positive things will come up from their initiatives.