Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte on Thursday urged the agriculture department to revive the Masagana 99 rice production program that prevented a rice crisis in the 1970s. Villafuerte proposed the revival of the program in the wake of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) plan to plant high-yielding hybrid seeds in 1.5 million hectares this dry season.
The Masagana 99 program was envisioned to increase farm yields to 100 cavans per hectare, up from the 40 to 50 cavans per hectare harvest at the time. It was implemented by then Agriculture Secretary Arturo Tanco Jr. with current Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban as chairman of the National Food and Agriculture Council.
It was a comprehensive program that provided not only seeds but also financing for farm inputs to the farmers. Villafuerte said that much higher palay yields through a revived Masagana 99 program would significantly boost the rice stocks, leading to lower prices for the staple.
President Marcos earlier bared his plan to pulling down the price of rice to as low as P20 a kilo.
Villafuerte said: “The DA’s 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.”
However, with the average yield of big producers like China at about 6.5 metric tons per hectare, he said “the target of the proposed Masagana redux is to produce at least 129 cavans a hectare instead of 99 cavans.”
There are 50 kilograms of palay in a cavan.
Masagana 99 managed to achieve higher farm yield by promoting the use of the high-yielding “miracle rice’ variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquartered in Los Baños, Laguna, Villafuete said.
On Villafuerte’s watch as three-term CamSur governor, the province—according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS)—became the country’s 12th biggest rice producer in 2008 and a higher No. 8 in 2011. CamSur went up to No. 4 rice producer in 2016.
Villafuerte 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.”