The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) distributed “Malusog” rice seeds to seven provinces in seven regions for their nutrition program. Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary for Rice Program Leo Sebastian said.
In a news statement, Sebastian said the seven provinces that have initially planted vitamin A-rich Malusog rice seeds are: Quirino in Region 2; Catanduanes in Region 5; Antique in Region 6; Samar in Region 8; Lanao del Norte in Region 10; Agusan del Sur in Region 9; and Maguindanao in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He also asked PhilRice to eventually urge the local government units (LGUs) to get into farm clustering of 100 hectares each so these rice-producing provinces can participate in the overall Masagana Rice Industry Development Program (MRIDP) where all interventions will be given.
“The provinces were selected on the basis of: 1) prevalence of malnutrition; 2) rice production data and 3) support from LGUs,” Sebastian added.
Moreover, the PhilRice has started planting Malusog rice during the wet season crop of 2022 in 38 hectares increasing it to 47 hectares during the dry season crop of 2023 and further raising the planted area to 200 hectares during this wet season.
For his part, PhilRice program head Ronan Zagado said that the highest yield attained during the dry season was 8.3 tons per hectare in Isabela.
Malusog rice is one of the new varieties released by the National Seed Industry Council, which PhilRice is now propagating initially for the identified seven provinces but would soon be deployed to other provinces under the overall DA MRIDP.
Malusog rice is a new variety of rice with a significant amount of beta carotene, which when regularly consumed as a staple can provide at least 30 percent of the estimated average requirement for vitamin A.
This beta carotene, similar to what is found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables, is converted to Vitamin A needed by the body.
Furthermore, the rice is intended to complement existing nutrition interventions to address vitamin A deficiency, a public health problem affecting children and pregnant and lactating women.