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Hybrid seed victims to get compensation

(Wednesday, March 19, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Philippine Daily Inquirer: SAN MANUEL, Isabela-About 100 farmers in Isabela who suffered financial losses after planting Magilas 500 hybrid seeds in their ricefields will either receive crop compensation from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) or agricultural aid from the seed producer Monsanto-Philippines.

Danilo Tumamao, Isabela agriculture officer, has sent six teams composed of agricultural technicians to Isabela's 35 towns and two cities to validate reports of barren production of Magilas 500 hybrid rice seeds.

He said the workers have been obliged to submit regular reports on statistics on the affected farmers and their field and the degree of damage for each field.

"We have to appraise the damage for each farm because we have received information that some farmers incurred 10-95-percent losses. Not all have the same cases of agricultural production losses," he told the Inquirer.

After the validation list is finalized, the Isabela agriculture office will furnish copies to the government's PCIC and to the Monsanto-Philippines for their appraisal and action.

President Macapagal-Arroyo originally established the Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program (HRCP) last year to create more jobs, ensure food security and reduce poverty especially in the rural areas.

The program was implemented to meet the food security demand in the country and to lessen the 625,000-ton average yearly rice imports since 1983.

During the field day training for hybrid seeds production for farmer-cooperators and agricultural technicians on Thursday, Gumersindo Lasam, regional agriculture director, said the infertile hybrid seeds involved technical matters and it would be up to the private seeds company to firm up its actions.

Monsanto has formed a fact-finding task force, composed of seed research and marketing personnel, to investigate the crop failure in Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya.

According to initial findings of the seed technicians from Monsanto, the possible cause of the crop failure is the climatic condition, particularly temperature.

Emmanuel Borlongan, Monsanto-Philippines government and public affairs director, said the wide range of temperature in the past months, particularly from late December last year until February this year, had affected the pollination process.

"Tropical environments, such as the Philippines, experience a temperature range of 22-33 degrees Celsius, where 27-32 degrees Celsius is ideal for a good set in rice. The past few months manifested a low of 16-18 degrees Celsius in Northern Luzon which might have affected pollen development, pollination and fertilization, and thereby, affected the grain development that resulted in poor seed set," Borlongan said.

Seed experts noted that the barren hybrid rice seed production is not new in the province.

They recalled that PhilRice, the hybrid program main implementor, experienced the same problem in planting Magat, a hybrid, in the 1980s.

Borlongan said the observation explained the poor seed set in Nueva Vizcaya, where the elevation is higher compared to Isabela. Villamor Visaya Jr., PDI Northern Luzon Bureau