ILOILO CITY, March 13 (PNA) — The Iloilo Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) is hopeful to reach one million metric tons (MT) of rice production this year as the acceptance of hybrid rice among farmers in the province is already high.

On Monday, provincial agriculturist Ildefonso Toledo said that the use of hybrid rice variety is among the important factors to achieve the target. Hybrid rice can produce a minimum of 10 MT to 15 MT of rice per hectare, higher than the seven MT to eight MT of rice per hectare when using an inbred rice variety.

Last year, Toledo said that the province only produced more than 800,000 MT of rice. He noted that the highest rice production was recorded in 2012 when the province produced 944,000 MT of rice.

The use of hybrid rice seeds was introduced in the province in 2005 but Toledo said that it was just last year when most farmers started to accept and use the variety.

Although the province was challenged by the El Niño phenomenon last year, Toledo received good reports that farmers who used hybrid rice varieties produced not less than seven MT of rice per hectare.

“Many farmers have planted hybrid rice seeds because this is what we advocated to them last year. We hope to surpass our production last year so we will continue to have sufficient rice this year,” he added.

Toledo said that farmers are still encouraged to use hybrid rice seeds to further increase their rice productivity even in adverse weather condition.

Meanwhile, the province is also preparing for the massive planting of coffee and cocoa this year. Toledo said that they are now finalizing the profile of existing farmers who are planting cocoa and coffee in the province and validating the data of areas that are highly suitable for these high value commodities.

Initially, Toledo said that they have identified 22 out of the 42 towns and one component city in the province that have potential for cocoa and coffee plantation.

Meanwhile, as summer season starts, Toledo advised to farmers to not venture into third cropping as there might be not enough water to irrigate their rice fields.

Instead, Toledo encouraged farmers to plant summer crops like watermelon, which are considered to be “drought-tolerant” crop.

Currently, Toledo said that there are already about 800 to 1,000 hectares of land in the province that were planted to watermelon, most of them found in Oton town. (PNA)