Rice is one of the major food cash crops in the Philippines, yet the cost of producing it in the country remains higher than the other top rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia. Labor cost is the top contributor to the rice production cost in the Philippines. DSR can reduce labor requirements by up to 50% depending on the production system.
Rice is one of the major food cash crops in the Philippines, yet the cost of producing it in the country remains higher than the other top rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia. In 2013, rice farmers in the Philippines–as represented by Nueva Ecija–expended USD 0.22/KG to produce unmilled rice, whereas their Thai (in Suphanburi) and Vietnamese (in Can Tho) counterparts spent only USD 0.16/kg and USD 0.12/kg, respectively
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the average cost of producing rice in the country was USD 0.21/kg in 2020, still relatively higher than in other Southeast Asian countries.
Labor cost is the top contributor to the rice production cost in the Philippines. Hired and operator, family, and exchange labor comprised almost 53% (USD 0.11/kg) of the total production cost in 2020 due to the high-level labor requirements, and rising farm wage rates.
Total labor use in the Philippines was around 69–71 labor-days (ld)/ha (1 ld = 8 h of work), substantially higher than that of Thailand with only 10–11 ld/ha and that of Vietnam with 20–22 ld /ha.
This difference is due to the varying degree of mechanization – as well as farm practices, particularly on crop establishment, in each country. Primarily owing to the dominant practice of manual transplanting, crop establishment accounts for 21–24 ld/ ha or over 30% of the total labor use in rice production in the Philippines. On the other hand, rice farmers in Thailand and Vietnam extensively use direct seeding which uses only about 1–2 ld/ha.
Direct-seeded rice (DSR) is easier to do as it only involves the sowing of dry or pre-germinated seeds into dry or puddled soils, whereas transplanted rice (TPR) requires the growing of seedlings in seedbeds and replanting them to the puddled field. As such, DSR can reduce labor requirements by up to 50% depending on the production system. Accordingly, Filipino farmers can reduce hired labor costs by USD 0.021/kg through DSR
The shift to DSR or alternate use of TPR and DSR has already spread among rice farmers in Asia, primarily due to rising wage rates. More farmers are likely to shift to DSR as labor becomes scarcer, irrigation water supply declines,
and the need for crop intensification and diversification increases to attain food and nutrition security.
Other drivers for adoption include labor savings for more income, availability of high-yielding, short-duration rice varieties, and affordable chemical weed control measures. A corresponding 7–8 and 9–13% labor savings in DSR compared to manual TPR in Haryana, India has been observed. In Vietnam, the shorter growth duration of DSR enabled triple rice cropping in a year, which improved the country’s rice production.
This paper aimed to assess the socioeconomic effect of the rice farmers’ adoption of DSR as an alternative to TPR. For this purpose, it determined the trends and patterns of adoption of DSR; examined the economic performance of DSR relative to TPR; identified the factors that influence DSR adoption, and provided policy recommendations to promote DSR.
Doing so may provide the rationale to promote DSR technology to rice farmers in suitable areas in the country and may help identify the necessary support services to assist farmers who are willing or want to transition from TPR to DSR to deal with its constraints and trade-offs.
Results showed that the proportion of DSR farmers increased from 27% in 1996/1997 to 33-42% in 2016/2017, with a higher percentage observed in rainfed areas. The economic advantage of DSR over TPR lies in its lower labor requirement and cost of crop establishment. However, higher seed, insecticide, and herbicide costs are the major trade-offs when shifting to DSR. Yield from DSR is also generally lower than that of TPR due to greater weed and pest pressure.
Despite this, labor productivity is higher in DSR compared with TPR. Accordingly, the labor savings in DSR is large enough to offset these trade-offs, which translate to a higher net income than in TPR. Partial budget analysis showed that shifting to DSR is most profitable for farmers in rainfed areas and during the DS.
Still, minimizing the trade-offs and addressing the constraints to adoption such as narrowing the yield gap between DSR and TPR may accelerate the adoption of DSR technology in suitable areas. Promoting direct seeding as a viable alternative to transplanting to rice farmers in suitable areas must be intensified to encourage adoption.
Expanding farm irrigation and drainage may be instrumental for this. DSR can produce comparable yields with TPR by optimizing management practices. For this, training on efficient weed control techniques including proper land preparation and water management as preventive measures is critical to minimize the yield gap between DSR and TPR, which is the primary concern of farmers.
The PalayCheck platform may be a good reference material at least for farmers in irrigated lowland areas for this. Varieties specifically meant for the direct seeding method (e.g. with early seedling vigor, high resistance to lodging, tolerance of low oxygen level, drought tolerance, and weed competitiveness) should also be developed.
Moreover, drum seeders and similar technologies must be simultaneously promoted to enhance the efficiency of farmers in terms of seed use. In line with this, educating farmers through technology demonstrations is imperative to make them more receptive to these technologies. Providing such technologies may also facilitate the adoption of DS.
Read the study:
Bautista AP et al. (2023) Adoption and Performance of Direct-seeded Rice (DSR) Technology in the Philippines. Philipp J Sci 152(2): 459–484.