Tabuk’s lone remaining hybrid seed grower
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
(Note: With the passage of the Rice Tarrification Law opening up the country to cheaper rice from abroad, eyed as one of the best means for our rice farmers to cope with the lower prices of their produce is to shift to hybrid rice technology due to the higher yield. Since I will be writing about the effort to promote hybrid rice among local farmers in future issues of this paper, let me share this article written in 2013 as backgrounder.)
During the heyday of the hybrid seed production industry in the Tabuk Valley in 2004, there were 220 hybrid seed or F1 producers in the locality with a combined planted area of 800 hectares. That was the time when Tabuk was acknowledged as one of the main F1 producing areas in the country – in fact, the No. 2 when it comes to yield with its more or less 900 kilos average production per hectare. But alas, due to several adverse factors most lethal of which was the complete withdrawal of the rice seed subsidy by the Aquino Administration, there is but only one hybrid seed producer with only 1.3 hectares planted with the parent lines of hybrid rice seeds in the whole city this cropping season.
Barnabas Barnigan, 47, of barangay San Julian, does not mind being the lone remaining F1 producer in the whole city. In fact, when I asked him how much he makes from his A x R (rice hybrid seed parent lines) crops which causes him to stick to F1 production, he half jokingly told me that what he is going to say might lure other farmers into the activity and there goes his monopoly. He went off record when I grilled him on the rewards of F1 farming only allowing me to write that the returns is higher than in commercial rice production and inbred rice seed production.
“If more will plant A x R, there might be some who may not be able to sell their produce especially those with low quality seeds. Of course, my fellow farmers in San Julian will come to me but if someone will plant A x R in Cabaruan, the farmers there might already buy from him,” Barnigan said even as he revealed that last cropping season, 13 bags of his seeds were sold to Cabaruan farmers.
Kagawad Jedd Songgadan, 44, of neighboring barangay Balong, who intends to plant A x R this wet cropping season admits that it will be hard to compete with Barnigan when it comes to the quality of seeds. Songgadan who was a batchmate of Barnigan in the University Without Walls, the PhilRice season-long training in F1production, in 2004, said that Barnigan is different from the common run of hybrid seed producers because he does everything humanly possible to ensure that his customers are satisfied.
“Barnabas is very particular with the roguing (removal of off type plants to preserve the purity of the seeds). He does not miss a day at his farm so that the moment off type plants like drop seeds appear, he pulls them out right away. He does this until he is certain that there are no more other varieties mixed with the A x R. His reputation as a stickler to seed purity built from the time he was accredited as an F1 producer in 2004 is well know so he does not have a problem selling his seeds. Purity is the key to selling F1,” Songgadan said.
Barnigan does not take any chances. He could not entrust the growing of the A x R to anyone. He could allow others to prepare the field but the moment the rice seedlings are planted, he takes full control reporting to the farm everyday except when he has to attend to something very important. He himself does the re-planting, picking of the mollusks, roguing, application of fertilizer and maintenance of the water. Because the process involves running a rope through the rice stands to shake the pollen off, during the cross-pollination, his son Raffy helps him. He spends more of his waking hours in the farm than anywhere else devoting an average of eight hours there daily.
He is pulling all the stops to ensure that his F1 product will serve the purpose and be bought by other farmers has paid off. During the last three crops that he planted A x R, his seeds could not cope with the demand so much so that he has to refund the payments of some farmers whose orders could not be met by his produce. Clearly, as a seed producer, Barnigan has a faithful following.
Edward Boclongan of Laya East, a seed producer himself, who with five bags, was one of the biggest buyers of Barnigan’s seeds last cropping, is all praises for Barnigan: “To date, we have not heard of the F1 of Barnigan failing. They contain no sterile seeds. Barnabas does not think of F1 production as a momentary business. He wants to remain in the business for good. The farmers to whom I promoted his F1 keep buying from him.”
Brent Mangay-ayam of San Julian also vouches for the F1 of Barnigan testifying that all the seeds he bought from him were good. He said that seeds of the M1 variety which Barnigan produces is also available in farm supply stores but he prefers to buy from Barnigan because based on his own experience, his seeds are very reliable.
Barnigan counts among his following Lim Ducyugen, an agricultural extension worker of Tabuk City LGU who also happens to be his neighbor in San Julian. Ducyugen says that he usually buys from Barnigan a bag but sometimes two bags which he plants purposely for the family’s provision. He explains that the compared with other hybrid rice varieties, the M1 has the best eating quality. Just like several of the customers of Barnigan, Ducyogen is himself a seed grower who at one time planted 10 hectares to A x R. He stopped in 2010 when the government stopped its subsidy for the technology.
Even Fidel Ramos, one of the Philrice technicians based in Philrice San Mateo, Isabela who promoted the hybrid rice technology in the Tabuk Valley, is impressed with the seed production of Barnigan. During the last cropping, Ramos had asked Barnigan if he had any excess over the requirements of his local clientele so he could have it sold in Cagayan. But just like in past harvests, the F1 produce of Barnigan was snapped up and could not cope with the demand. Actually, long before the harvest, his clients have already placed and paid their orders so much so that what usually happens is for him to refund farmers whose orders could not be accommodated due to the limited produce. **(To be continued)