In a press conference last month, Dr. Victoria Lapitan, Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice-5) Ligao town station director, announced that Catanduanes was chosen as one of seven pilot provinces in the Philippines to become priority areas for the production of “Golden Rice,” a rice variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute as a means of combatting malnutrition in the country.
While Catanduanes is a rice surplus-producing province, the 2015 updating survey of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that malnutrition continues to be a severe problem in the province.
“Golden Rice is rich in Vitamin A that it could address the Vitamin A deficiency that leads to malnutrition,” said Lapitan. She shares that they aim to ensure the availability, affordability, and accessibility of safe and nutritious rice to all Filipinos at all times.
“Selected farmers from towns of Viga and Virac are set to plant Golden Rice this wet season, they are identified for grain production that will be planted on two hectares. Forty kilos of Golden Rice seeds will be planted on a hectare of rice land. During harvest time when milled, rice will be available to the identified target communities,” Lapitan shares. She also noted that Golden Rice is planted like any other ordinary rice and will only take 108 to 110 days to be harvested.
“One hectare of irrigated land planted with Golden Rice will yield about 3.5 tons of palay. So for Catanduanes, we are expecting at least 7 tons of palay that will be milled,” she said. Seed production will be supervised by PhilRice in Ligao and Samar stations in 87 hectares of rice farms that will be available for other farmers.
PhilRice states that, when consumed as part of the daily diet, Golden Rice can give young children 30-50% of their estimated average requirement of Vitamin A. The addition of beta-carotene in its grains — which is converted by the human body as needed — is intended to address Vitamin A deficiency that can lead to a weak immune system, impaired cognitive development, and poor eyesight.