The Philippines is shipping out within this February 2014 its maiden export of 19.33 metric tons (MT) of Dona Maria rice to Muscat, Oman, a major trading center in the Middle East that augurs well for Philippines’ rice export prospect.
Muscat, Oman’s capital, has been known in history to be an important trading center between Asia and Europe-North America. It had been ruled in olden times by Persians (now Iran) and Portuguese.
The export of Dona Maria Jasponica and MIponica Rice was announced by SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong who looks forward to more export Oman that observes Halal food safety processes being an Islamic country.
The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) export program initiated since May 2013, initially to Dubai, has paved the way to this further export, Lim said.
Also in an earlier export, SLAC shipped in October 2013 to California, United States19.45 MT of both Dona MAria Jasponica and Miponica rice packed in two kilos, five kilos, and 10 kilos.
However, the country’s export does not only consist of table-grade rice.
It also exported in the last quarter of 2013 seeds that generate further livelihood for Filipino farmers.
SLAC exported 500 MT of hybrid rice SL-8H seeds to Vietnam from November to December 2013.
“We have been exporting seeds to Thailand for three years now-five croppings of alternating wet and dry seasons,” said Dona T. Lim, SLAC assistant vice president for operations. “They want our hybrid seeds because it’s producing 10 tons.”
The seed export is helping sustain the livelihood of Filipino farmers carrying out seed production at SLAC’s seed farm in Banaybanay Davao Oriental.
The seed export, though, comes in the heel of rice smuggling cases in the Philippines for which SLAC has expressed concern.
“Our company has never imported rice as this is a way of depriving our local farmers,” said Lim. He asserts policies against rice smuggling should be strictly enforced.
“Smuggled rice competes with our local farmers’ production. Smuggled rice is not taxed. If it’s taxed, we can compete with it,” said Lim.
Lim stressed SLAC has been all-out in its support to promote Filipino-grown rice.
“Our Dona Maria rice is now available in the US and the Middle East, placing our local rice brand in the world market. We have partnered with one of the biggest retail outlets in Europe to promote our rice,” Lim said.
While SLAC also imports seeds, these are rice seeds for local planting -not to be eaten or for home consumption.
This seed importation is granted zero-duty as inputs to agriculture is given zero-duty as provided for by Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act or Republic Act 8435 in order to protect Filipino farmers.
“It is unfortunate a recent publication classified rice and seeds together. Our company has been operating with the highest level of integrity and business ethical standards. This is the platform from which we operate,” said Lim.
And while SLAC imports seeds for planting (much as other multinational rice seed companies), SLAC is also carrying out seed production in other Asian countries in order to beef up its seed supply.
Its seed production farms are in Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. A seed production farm in Africa is in the pipeline.
The seed export shows Vietnam’s continuing interest to import high-quality seeds from the Philippines.
“Due to the increasing demand of the hybrid rice seeds in Vietnam, Dai Than Jointstock Co. ventured to increase its hybrid rice seed production to 100 hectares from the 10-hectare pilot production last 2012,” said Dona.
Vietnamese importer, Dai Thanh Jointstock Co., a private firm, has been importing seeds from SLAC, having found SL-8H hybrid rice seeds to be doubling its rice yield.
SL-8H, known as GS9 in Vietnam, gives a yield of around 10 MT per hectare, about double the four to five MT per hectare yield using conventional seeds.
Countries importing seeds from the Philippines note of what they may consider as a special privilege to produce their own seeds using Philippines-developed hybrids. SLAC assigns a technical expert on seed production to these countries at a rate of one expert for every 500 hectares of seed production area.
SLAC’s contract growing with farmers of Dona Maria rice allows farmers to plant high quality hybrid rice without shelling out cash.
SLAC provides the seeds and inputs (fertilizers). SLAC also assures farmers of a stable market for their produce as it buys all rice production and at a price around P2 to P3 per kilo higher than market prices.
In order to expand its seed production in the Philippines, SLAC is seeking assistance from DA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and other agencies in identifying a contiguous area of land.
Private companies like SLAC needs a lot of assistance from the government on infrastructure, farm to market roads, irrigation facilities, and credit provision in order to expand its local seed production activity.
Ms. Joh Dungca (SLAC)
Ms. Analiza C. Mendoza (Growthmagph)