Friday , 19 April 2024

MIRDP is alive, after all

By Rose de la Cruz

What took the leadership of former Undersecretary for Rice Industry Development Leocadio Sebastian months to organize, mobilize and scale – the Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MIRDP) – was overridden by the exemptions sought by regional directors from the voucher system, a vital strategy of MIRDP and the return to procurement and distribution by RDOs and LGUs of the production inputs themselves, instead of empowering farmers to choose their seeds and fertilizers suitable to their fields.

Hence, the MIRDP seemed to be completely forgotten and discontinued.

But, in a recent speech of Director Glenn Estrada for digitalization (another component of modern MIRDP) in Apayao, he spoke about the benefits of fully embracing MIRDP to modernize and develop the rice industry through a multifaceted approach that addresses both supply and demand aspect, incorporating scientific advancements, economic realities, and market dynamics.

MIRDP, he said, is structured around understanding and responding to market demands, balancing scientific progress with economic viability, and facilitating the adoption of innovative technologies and practices among rice farmers.

Emphasizing on the value chain approach (Ganado strategy), MIRDP is “inherently designed to be responsive to market demands. By focusing on the entire rice value chain from production to processing and market, the program aims to create a competitive and efficient system that meets the preferences and demands of both domestic and international markets,” Estrada explained.

Success stories like that of Flora Apayao Farmers Cluster, a municipal rice cluster involving 12 irrigators associations tilling 1,480 hectares that benefitted from the full adoption of the IMC (interventions monitoring card) – an e-wallet that has complete details of the identification of farmer members, details of their total procurement of inputs– price, data of procurement and receipt of inputs and their sales of palay. The cluster members are now having their harvest.

Estrada also turned over to the coop a P5.5-million rice processing facility and inducted the coop officers during the event.

In 2014, the Flora coop merely benefited from the high yield technology adoption (hyta), which members they sustained until now. They continued successfully until now. Hyta is a recovery rollover scheme to stretch fiscal allocation and cover most of its members. This is to empower farmers groups and they roll the funds among themselves. They are very successful and the members are disciplined, Estrada explained.

He said success stories within this framework involve the development of rice clusters that have successfully integrated into larger value chains, achieving economies of scale, and enhancing product quality and marketability. These clusters benefit from improved access to markets, better bargaining power, and increased incomes.

He said that challenges include aligning the diverse interests and capacities of various stakeholders within the value chain, ensuring consistency in quality, and adapting to changing market preferences, particularly in the face of international competition and consumer trends towards healthier and more sustainable food options.

The MRIDP addresses the balance between scientific advancements and economic realities through its emphasis on research and development (38% contribution to rice production growth), infrastructure (32%), and extension services (16%). This indicates a strong focus on applying scientific progress in a way that is economically viable for farmers.

Specific challenges in achieving this balance include the high cost of adopting new technologies, the need for training and capacity building among farmers to adopt these technologies, and ensuring that the benefits of scientific advancements are accessible to smallholder farmers, who make up a significant portion of the rice farming community in the Philippines.

Estrada said the MRIDP implements several measures to facilitate the adoption of innovative technologies and practices, addressing both the science push (the supply of new technologies) and market pull (demand for improved efficiency and product quality). These measures include training and extension services, the provision of subsidies and credit for adopting new technologies (e.g., high-yielding seed varieties, mechanization), and the development of a data ecosystem for better decision-making.

The program also emphasizes the importance of digital transformation (Napapanahon strategy) in agriculture, promoting the use of digital tools and smart agricultural technologies to increase yield, reduce production costs, and make farming practices more sustainable and climate-resilient, he stressed.

Challenges in this area might include overcoming resistance to change among farmers, the digital divide in rural areas, and ensuring that innovations are adaptable and relevant to the local context and conditions.

Overall, the Masagana Rice Industry Development Program represents a holistic and integrated approach to developing the Philippine rice industry. It seeks to leverage scientific advancements and market dynamics to achieve sustainable growth, increased productivity, and improved livelihoods for rice farmers, while also aiming to meet the growing demand for rice in the country and contribute to food security, he concluded.

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