BACOLOD CITY, February 1, 2006
 (MALAYA) BY GILBERT BAYORAN - Sugar farmers and six local government units in Negros Occidental accepted the challenge to join the government’s agriculture diversification program by producing Chinese hybrid corn in their areas.

Records of the Department of Agriculture showed that hog raisers in Negros Occidental are supplying 500 tons a month of corn to other areas of the country.

Provincial agriculturist Igmedio Tabianan said Negros Occidental produces at least 10 percent of the corn requirements of 14 documented hog raisers in the province alone.

"We have a shortfall in production of 70 to 90 percent," Tabianan said.

This does not include the corn feeds requirements by chicken and backyard hog raisers, he added.

At present, more than 5,000 hectares of agricultural land in Negros Occidental are planted with traditional corn varieties.

Fu Hua Philippine Hi Tech Agricultural Corporation which introduced the Chinese hybrid corn, said Governor Joseph Maranon was the first local chief executive to order test planting for corn.

Yvette Lee, Fu Hua marketing director, said the results of hybrid corn planting has prompted sugar planter Steve Lacson to plant his first corn hectare in Barangay Viejo, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

Chinese hybrid corn were separately planted in 10 hectares in cities of Sagay, Escalante, San Carlos and towns of Manapla as well as Cauayan, aside from Cadiz since last year.

At the Panaad Park in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City, a hectare of land planted to hybrid corn produced 10.5 tons in three to four months, compared to four to five tons which is the average yield of traditional corn varieties, Tabianan said.

The initial tests on Chinese hybrid corn in Negros Occidental show promise for government’s diversification program even as it heralds potential for greater food security nationwide, Lee said.

In Cadiz City, the four pilot areas planted to hybrid corn includes Barangays Caduhaan, Mabini and the insurgency-stricken areas of Barangays Celestino Villacin and VF Gustilo.

A corn farmer needs a maximum of P30,000 capital per hectare. He is expected to earn a maximum of P60,000 per cropping period of three times annually, according to Tabianan.

"The diversification may be the answer to financial crisis," Cadiz City Mayor Salvador Escalante said.

In Barangay Binagyuhan, Escalante City, Tabianan said six to seven tons of hybrid corn were produced from one hectare.

The result of the one-hectare test planting in Cadiz City also prompted Lacson to expland his corn area to 10 hectares.

Lacson said the investment in the test area was equal to what he puts into sugarcane. Yield and market price, and simplified production and marketing systems, he noted, provide the same income - but with corn he can harvest every four months.

Several northern Negros sugar planters are reportedly planning to venture into hybrid corn, noting a huge untapped market for the product and higher returns on investments.

"It is a venture worth going into considering the prices of sugar is fluctuating, Escalante said.

Tabianan who was among the 45 delegates who visited mainland China to study management of corn industry, said they are eyeing 5,000 more hectares in Negros Occidental to be planted to Chinese hybrid corn.

Nationwide, Lee said, there is a shortfall of a maximum of two million tons of corn.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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