Cagayan farmers slam fake rice seeds

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QUIRINO, Isabela: About 10,000 farmers in the rice-producing Cagayan Valley (Region 2) were duped of more than P50 million-worth of fake hybrid rice seeds allegedly coming from Nueva Ecija causing them to suffer a low rice yield.

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As harvest season neared, farmers said they noticed their rice seeds did not appear to be the same high-yielding SL-8H they used to plant which gave them a high yield of close to 200 cavans per hectare.

Initial investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) revealed that the suspected dealers imitated the sacks and brochures used by Makati City-based SL Agritech Corp.’s high-yielding Shwe Lar-SL-8H super hybrid rice seeds.

The NBI said those behind the scam are liable for trademark infringement and unfair competition under Sections 155 and 168 of Republic Act No. 8293.

“They will be liable arising from their conspiratorial act of illegally and unlawfully offering for sale, selling and/or distribution of purported ‘SL-8H’ hybrid rice seeds that are fake,” the NBI said in its report.

In Barangay Camaal here, Leonardo Gaspar, 59, said he noticed that the seeds delivered to him was of different color and did not grow as expected having small grains and even empty.

Gaspar said he has been planting the SL-8H hybrid rice seeds since 1991 in his 8,600 square meters rice farm that constantly produce 148-150 cavans per cropping shifting from in-bred rice seeds tht yield only 60 to 80 cavans per hectare.

“My fear now is if there is anything to harvest and granting there will be any, there will be no buyers as the yield turned out to be very small grains,” Gaspar said.

He said he invested four cavans of 18 kilos at P4,500-P5,000 each for his four hectares of riceland only to find out later that the seeds were fake as shown by the results of the grown rice plants with empty grains.

Similarly, Rolando Malenda of Burgos town said the seeds he bought were dirty with almost pulverized metal mixed with the seeds so small but ignored while planting.

“Now that it is harvest time, I could see my rice plants not growing as expected. I also noticed that some have grains and yet very small and even empty,” Malenda said.

Judy Bacacay also of Camaal village, said he was misled by the 18 kilos sack used by the fake SL-8H dealer which is almost exactly similar to the original.

“One cannot distinguish any difference sold by SL Agritech Corp. of which I have been using since 2016,” Bacacay said.

He said he bought 12 bags of 18 kilos each marked with the SL-8H hybrid rice seeds which he planted in six hectares of riceland expecting to harvest at least 1,000 cavans this time of harvest. But he doubts if he can harvest even 180 cavans per hectare this season.

Meanwhile, Agritech Corp., the producer of the rice seeds said they are conducting further investigation on the proliferation of at least 15,000 sacks of fake SL-8H hybrid rice.

Jade Pedres, Agritech business manager in Cagayan Valley, said they have already identified the culprits as a result of an NBI investigation.

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