President calls on agri sector to modernize operation

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday rallied various stakeholders to support the government in elevating the current condition of the local rice industry and pushing for sustainable rice value chains.

PAST AND PRESENT. During his visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Headquarters on Tuesday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. recreates the historic photo of his father and namesake with US President Lyndon B. Johnson (inset)—taken at the same spot in the institute on October 26, 1966. Mr. Marcos Jr. is accompanied by IRRI Director General Jean Balié, IRRI Senior Scientist Steve Klassen, and other institute officials. Presidential Photo

In his visit to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, the President raised the need to adopt supportive policies to modernize the rice sector as part of a vibrant agri-food industry in the Philippines.

“There are new technologies that address the problems that we are facing, and those technologies are beginning to be disseminated down to the local farmers,” Mr. Marcos said in his speech.

Meanwhile, in an interview with reporters, the President said he had a timeline for leaving the post of Agriculture Secretary, saying there were things he wanted to achieve before doing so. He did not offer any details of these goals or his timetable, however.

He also said vetting continues for the next Department of Agriculture chief.

Upon taking the post, Mr. Marcos said the “very deeply embedded” problems at the department were so difficult it would “take a president to… turn it around.”

Also on Tuesday, Mr. Marcos re-enacted the photo of his father and namesake with former United States President Lyndon Johnson with IRRI Director General Robert Chandler, and some scientists on October 26, 1966.

Various global developments, including the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, reminded the world of “how fundamental” the agriculture sector is, Mr. Marcos said.

“The pandemic and the situation in Ukraine have been a glaring reminder of how fundamental the agricultural sector is, and food supply is, not only to the Philippines but to the entire world,” he said.

“We hope to strengthen those partnerships because we very much need—not only to be able to disseminate or to provide these new varieties, the new techniques—but we also have to have a more focused approach to how we deal with the agricultural sector,” Mr. Marcos said.

The President, who is also the concurrent secretary of the Agriculture Department and is also an ex-officio member of IRRI’s Board of Trustees, recognized IRRI’s vigor and success over the years in the development of climate-resilient, high-yielding rice varieties and farming technologies that significantly improved farmers’ productivity, profitability, and competitiveness all over the world.

“I think that there is no way that I could overstate the importance of the work that you were doing. And so you – I have received so many ‘thank yous’ from all of you. And I feel that perhaps it should I, it should be us from the Philippines who should be thanking you for the continuing thirst for knowledge that you have shown,” Mr. Marcos said.

The President said agricultural technologies are being pursued as rice crops face risks from higher fertilizer prices and challenges in water management.

“And as I’ve said, it gives me hope to see the research that we were doing is headed exactly in those directions that we feel are going to be necessary—that we have to develop further,” he said.

In his visit to the IRRI, the President was briefed about the various initiatives being done to improve crop resilience, which includes direct seeding of rice, which is the process of putting up a rice crop from seeds sown in the field.

It offers a more sustainable and environment-friendly option, reducing the labor and cost of rice production while significantly lowering water use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Laser Land Leveling (LLL), on the other hand, is a laser-guided mechanized system to redistribute soil across a field for a level and uniform cultivation area, significantly improving water and input efficiency and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions of paddy farming.

The Solar Bubble Dryer, meanwhile, is a low-cost seed drying technology that can be set up anywhere, eliminating losses from traditional sun drying such as spillage, animals, weather, and vehicles running over the grains.

For the seed storage, Mr. Marcos was briefed about the Hermetic Storage System, wherein airtight seed storage containers in various sizes help reduce oxygen and moisture penetration, minimizing losses from insects and rot and helping preserve grain quality for longer.

IRRI is an independent, nonprofit, research, and educational institute, founded in 1960 by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations with support from the Philippine government. It has offices in 17 rice-growing countries in Asia and Africa and employs more than 1,000 staff.

IRRI is the world’s premier research organization dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger through rice science; improving the health and welfare of rice farmers and consumers and protecting the rice-growing environment for future generations.

The President went to the IRRI headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, where he re-enacted his father’s iconic photo with IRRI Director General Jean Balié and three others.

He also visited the International Rice Gene bank, which holds the most extensive collection of rice genetic diversity in the world.

He likewise witnessed the demonstration of the use of drones for rice research and production.

The IRRI is the world’s leading research organization dedicated to reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition through rice science.

Mr. Marcos also witnessed a demonstration of the use of drones for rice research and production.

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