Limitless Opportunities In Hybrid Rice
Unlike other rice farmers who are not able to explore other livelihood opportunities, a farmer in Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay used his entrepreneurial skills and right attitude to shape him into a successful rice financier, miller and trader today.
Born in the small town of Titay, Leonardo “Bobong” Talania was raised in a family of 12 with his father supporting them with a mere 5-hectare rice farm. Bobong recalls that has been already helping in farm work when he was only 12 years old. And the, r also came a time when his father considered selling their small farm just to keep his siblings in school. But then later on, he would find out that the decision to continue farming had been the right one for his family, especially for Bobong.
After Bobong had finished high school in 1976, his father could no longer send any of them to college. So from then, Bobong’s focus had shifted back to rice farming as this was their only source of livelihood.
CAPTURING AN OPPORTUNITY
As Bobong was observing that their regular dependence on farm equipment was adding to their production costs, he sought to reduce their expenses in rice farming by saving up for a small hand tractor.
Since other rice farmers also relied on this machinery during land preparation, he conducted contract plowing in exchange for 4 bags of palay. Later on, he was able to set aside enough money to buy his own small thresher. And similar to what he did with his tractor, he had offered this as a service to other farmers with six bags of palay in return.
From then on, Bobong realized that he can earn more income from rice farming by taking opportunities within—from land preparation to trading of milled rice to the local market. He vowed to himself that he will devote his time to further improve his farm’s yield with the latest technologies in rice as he continuously grows his business in rental and contract farming activities with his neighboring farmers.
GROWTH IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
The growth of Bobong’s machinery and contract farming business over the years had allowed him to seize yet another opportunity in rice production—this time in rice milling and trading. In the ’80s, his family sold their produce to rice millers who then took care of rice distribution to the market. It took a few years before they considered renting a ricemill so that they can have their own palay milled and sold to traders with a more attractive price, giving a gutter bottom line for them.
It didn’t take long before Bobong decided to buy his own rice mill in 1994. At this time, his rice farm had already grown to 40 hectares and he was also financing 70 hectares more. His frugality and reputation as a good businessman had allowed him to get a loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines to expand his operations.
Critical to good rice milling is proper drying of palay and seasonality of the crop plus the unpredictability of the weather in the province. These had compelled Bobong to invest in mechanical dryers. It was in 1996 when he bought one unit with a 6-ton capacity to complement his small rice mill.
As his financing capability grew and with more and more farmers selling palay to him, he further invested in his business by purchasing more mechanical dryers. Today, he has 10 units in his own milling facility, with the latest one having a 15-ton drying capacity. This move is needed to support his current average trading. of 1,000 bags of rice in 25-kg sacks on a weekly basis to different traders situated in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga City, and even reaching as far as Dumaguete City.
MORE SUCCESS WITH HYBRID RICE
In his old farming days, Bobong would consider it normal to yield around 60 cavans of rice per hectare using inbred varieties like IRS, IR64, or Rc28. The main practice at that time was broadcasting their fields as this was more convenient and didn’t require a lot of farm laborers.
With the introduction of transplanting and new agricultural chemical products by private companies, the practices of rice farmers in Titay were greatly influenced and Bobong always wanted to try something new in his farm if it had the potential to increase his yields.
In 2004, Bobong learned of hybrid rice and he never went back to planting inbreds since then. He first tried the Mestizo varieties developed by PhilRice and with proper management, his yields had reached nearly 100 cavans per hectare in the dry season. It was always the case that Bobong set aside part of his earnings from rice to fund his additional investments in farm equipment and rice milling businesses.
Earlier this year, there had been a supply shortage of hybrid rice seeds in Zamboanga Sibugay. Bobong’s determination to use hybrid rice seeds for the upcoming wet season prompted him to look for a distributor with the volume he needs for his farming and financing. He searched at the Mindanao-based PhilRice stations in Davao City, North Cotabato, and in other key agricultural channels. He even said that his wife misses him if it took him more than a week out of Titay just to look for hybrid rice seeds.
During his search, Bobong chanced upon a field demo of PHB71 hybrid rice in Compostela Valley and was amazed at its performance in the field. It showed good stand with 25-40 tillers and resistance to common rice diseases like rice blast. Feeling confident that it will work in his own farm in Titay, he bought enough seeds to cover more than 300 hectares. Upon harvesting last July and August, he was proud to claim that it definitely increased his yields to an average of 120 cavans per hectare using only 3 bags of 14-14-14 and 2 bags 17-0 fertilizers. He still expects much better yields with more fertilization and possibly 10 tons per hectare with this hybrid variety.
When asked what he likes about PHB71 hybrid rice aside from the high yield, Bobong attests to its outstanding aroma, good taste, and long grains, estimating the grain from this variety at 80 percent head rice recovery. In his long experience as a rice miller, he has never encountered such inbred or hybrid rice variety showing this excellent performance when milled. He sells grain from PHB71 with a premium of at least P50 per kg for every 25-kg sack of rice.
For the coming dry season, Bobong plans to finance more PHB71 hybrid rice seeds so that his farmers would get higher yields and that he would be assured of getting more premium milled rice for his growing market.
HIS FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
Bobong, who is turning 50 years old this year, looks back to where he had started with rice fanning and compares it to his current status as a successful but humble businessman. He currently has 7 threshers, 3 big tractors, 1 combine harvester, and more than 30 small tractors for his business operations. Add to that his 10 mechanical dryers and rice milling and packaging line.
He believes that it took a lot of self-discipline for him to be a successful fanner and businessman. Add to this his fairness and honesty to his customers and receptiveness to new farm technologies.
His courage to capture all opportunities that have the potential to grow his business is a significant factor, too. As long as there are growth opportunities in rice farming and the demand for the staple increases, he sees no limits to his business growth as well. As any fanning or business venture is a risk, he feels that he had embraced this as a challenge for him to have a better life for himself and his family.
Being a breadwinner for six children and his ever-supportive wife, Rosemarie, Bobong said that he would definitely hope that other farmers would also work hard to improve their families’ lives so that they can all prosper together in the small fanning town of Titay.
By Bryan B. Rivera