Friday, February 6, 2009

SUCCESS IN MUÑOZ CITY, NUEVA ECIJA: Goldmine in Certified Rice Seeds

Producing certified rice seeds is a virtual goldmine. That’s what the couple Ricardo and Gloria Magdangal of Brgy. Maligaya in Munoz City have found since 13 years ago.

Ricardo finished a course in agricultural engineering at the Central Luzon State University in 1978 while his wife is nurse who graduated from the Nueva Ecija Doctors Hospital in Cabanatuan City. Soon after graduation Ricardo worked for a few years at the National Irrigation Administration while Gloria got employed as a nurse in her alma mater.

In 1995, Ricardo (more popularly known by his nickname Tilah) thought of joining a training on certified rice seed production at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) which is right in the barangay where he lives. Soon after, the couple decided to give up their employment to engage in certified seed production and put up Tilah Seed Center where they sell certified seeds.

Started with 6 Hectares

For a start they planted six hectares that they owned. Today, they are producing certified seeds on 70 hectares, 60 of which are now owned by them while the rest are mortgaged to them. Tilah said that after each harvest, they use their profit to buy new land. Which means that producing certified seeds is really a goldmine.

Because their farms are irrigated, they produce two crops a year. Usually, they harvest 100 cavans per hectare during the wet season and 150 during the dry season. In the earlier years, the selling price per bag was ₱650, so they grossed ₱65,000 per hectare for the wet season crop. Since the average cost of production was ₱20,000 per hectare, the margin was really substantial. The profit during the dry season was even bigger because of the higher yield.

Today, the cost of production has gone up to ₱37,000 to ₱40,000 per hectare but then the selling price of certified seeds has virtually doubled. A bag of 40 kilos now sells at ₱1,200. By the way, they also produce a smaller volume of registered seeds which sell at ₱1,600 per bag. This is produced from the so-called foundation seeds bought from PhilRice. The registered seed, on the other hand, is the one planted to produce certified seeds.

While the Magdangals now produce about 17,500 bags of their own in two croppings per year, that is not enough for the requirements of buyers of Tilah Seed Center which is patronized not only by individual farmers but also by the Department of Agriculture. The seed center sells more than 100,000 bags of certified and registered seeds a year, with the DA buying half of the volume.

Only 18 Accredited Seed Producers Before

So, what did the Magdangals do to produce the volume required by their store? Tilah explained that in 1995, there were only 18 accredited producers of certified seeds who were members of the Nueva Ecija Seed Growers Association. They believed that limiting the number would protect the members from cutthroat competition. To be accredited, one has to have at least three hectares for seed production. In addition, he has to have his own thresher, solar dryer and a bodega. Of course, most farmers could not comply with such requirements.

In 1997, when he won as barangay chairman, Tilah thought that other small farmers in his province should also be able to reap the benefits of producing certified seeds. He convinced the authorities that even the small farmers should be allowed to participate in seed production as long as they undergo training at PhilRice. Today, there are more than 200 certified seed producers in Muňoz and some adjoining towns. Many of these people are now selling their produce to the Tilah Seed Center which has put up three branches, two in Isabela and one in nearby Santo Domingo in Nueva Ecija. Aside from the branches, they also have dealers in several provinces.

50 Farmer Cooperators, 500+ Hectares

Today, the Magdangals have 50 farmer cooperators who are planting no less than 500 hectares. Many are planting just one or two hectares but there are also a few who cultivate as many as 40 hectares for seed production. These cooperators don’t only come from Munoz but also from Talavera, Santo Domingo and a few other towns.

All the cooperators have undergone training on seed production at PhilRice. The cooperator takes care of land preparation which usually costs ₱6,000 per hectare. On the other hand, the Magdangals advance the cost of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. If the farm is not covered by the irrigation system, the cost of diesel for pumping water is also advanced.

To ensure the high quality of seeds, Tilah Seed Center has two specialists who do nothing but go around to monitor the standing crops of the farmers and advising them on what to do like keeping their farms clean and removing all off-types if there are any. There are also inspectors from the National Seed Quality Control Systems who go around to check the crops of seed growers. The harvested seeds are also tested in a laboratory for germination and seed quality.

In 2009, Tilah plans to increase the number of his cooperators not only to increase the volume of his supply but also to help other farmers reap the rewards of producing certified seeds. He plans to engage at least 25 new cooperators in each barangay in Muňoz.

More than 30 Varieties

The Tilah Seed Center sells more than 30 varieties. Every time PhilRice releases a new variety, Tilah sees to it that it is included in his list because farmers are always looking for such varieties. One of the favorites of farmers is NSIC 128 which is high yielding and soft when cooked. Another is Rc18 which is not only high yielding, it is also resistant to pests and diseases. Farmers from Pangasinan, on the other hand, love to plant IR60 because this is the variety that noodle makers are looking for.

Meanwhile, Seed Center has become a One-Stop-Agricultural-Shop. Aside from seeds it also, carries fertilizers, pesticides and other items needed by farmers. Producing certified rice seeds has really become a goldmine not only for the Magdangal couple but also for many other farmers in Nueva Ecija.☻

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