• Hybrid rice producer looks to Indonesia for plantations

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    Because of difficulty in securing commercial-scale agricultural lands in the Philippines, hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) said it may shift its planned joint venture with First Pacific Co. Ltd. to Indonesia.

    Henry Lim Bon Liong, SLAC president and chief executive officer, said they are scouting for rice plantations in Indonesia that could meet the land requirements of the Pangilinan group.

    “Right now, our direction is towards Indonesia because to be honest, we are having a hard time looking for land in the Philippines. Originally, the plan was to acquire 3,000 hectares of land in Iloilo, but the group of Manny Pangilinan wants to secure more than that,” Lim told reporters.

    He added that “we are still open for more negotiations.”

    Lim said a joint study is being done on rice production with SL Agritech as a seed supplier.

    “We should be proud that a Filipino firm is trying to expand in other nations,” he added.

    Manuel V. Pangilinan, First Pacific managing director, said in a chance interview that his group is having land availability problems.

    “We’re sorting out the land issue because it’s not clear to us what sort of approvals we need to implement on the project. Until we find that out, that’s the only way that we can proceed with a detailed feasibility study,” he said.

    Earlier, First Pacific was eyeing around 30,000 hectares of agricultural land in Davao Oriental for palm oil production and processing.

    “If the numbers work that’s the time that we can proceed with the detailed feasibility study,” Pangilinan said.

    SLAC – whose products include hybrid rice seeds, rice products, insecticide and fertilizer – is banking on its partnership with Hong Kong-based First Pacific to boost the business, as the hybrid rice developer gears up for the revival of its initial public offering (IPO).

    Incorporated in 2000, SLAC continues to entertain investors but wants to grow internally before it conducts an initial public offering, Lim said.

    SLAC ships hybrid rice seeds to Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. These seeds are cultivated in these countries to produce rice seeds that are sold to farmers.

    The firm is considering to export seeds to Nigeria and is planning to expand its operations in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Myanmar as well as in Vietnam.

    SL Agritech is a subsidiary of the Sterling Paper Group of Companies. It was formed in 1998, performing research work on hybrid rice.

    JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ

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