Research institute in Zamboanga Sibugay to improve rubber production

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By Anna Valmero

NAGA, ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY – The Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) will be established in a 1,000-hectare area in this town to develop products for the export market.

PRRI will help boost the country’s potential for rubber exports given the strong preference of industrial manufacturers for environment-friendly materials in efforts to mitigate climate change, said Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, director of Bureau of Agricultural Research at the Department of Agriculture (DA-BAR).

The project is important for the country’s bid to expand production from the current 130,000 hectares of rubber farms in the country to meet global demands of 12.4 million metric tons by 2020.

“PRRI should become at par with the rubber institutes in Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China that have been developing new superior rubber varieties,” Eleazar said.

These research centers in neigboring countries have produced rubber “clones” that are high-yielding, disease-resistant and with reduced gestation period that allows latex extraction in 4 to 5 years,  much shorter than the average range of 5 to 10 years range, according to Eleazar.

Genetic engineering and biotechnology will be used to generate value-added pharmaceutical products and special industrial-type latex at PRRI. With the new cultivars to be developed, local rubber farmers could improve their income; world market prices is very attractive at $4,000 to $5,000 per metric ton for semi-processed rubber.

Based on the draft IRR (implementing rules and regulations), to be submitted for approval by DA secretary Proceso Alcala, the national government will allocate a budget of P100 Million for PRRI for 2012 during its first year of implementation, said DA BAR coordinator Rudy Galang.

“The amount is equivalent to one percent of the gross value added of rubber,” said Galang.

Galang added that PRRI will further rubber research and development programs including establishment of a nursery garden for budwood, a plant shoot or stem suitable for bud grafting.

To enhance farmers’ management practices, they will be trained on fertilization, control of weed, insect and plant disease, control of mollusks and vertebrates, harvesting, and packing of budwoods and budsticks.

The PRRI will include facilities such as tissue culture laboratory, rubber testing laboratory, product testing laboratory, seedling nurseries, germplasm collections, semi-processing plants, waste water collection and testing facilities, said Galang.

“What is important here is a good amount of land in Zamboanga Sibugay where we will test for superior varieties of rubber and grow massive amount of seedlings,” said Galang. He said the 1,000-hectare area will primarily be an experimental station for breeding and selection of high yielding cultivars.

At present, the country’s average dry rubber yield is 1.5 metric tons per hectare, which is lower than the maximum potential for RRIM 600 variety of two metric tons per hectare each year.

Collaboration with other countries is aimed to generate good varieties resistant to drought and strong wind, enabling planting in coastal areas, said Eleazar.

(Photos courtesy of DA-BAR coordinator Rudy Galang)

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Cecille La Plana says:

I hope the establishment of PRRI will provide more job opportunities to local settlers in Sibugay and not those coming outside of the province to dominate it. We are strangers to our own land…We need localization!