SL Agritech exports 1,160 kilos of hybrid rice seeds to PNG

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In line with the government’s effort to expand partnerships and explore more market potential abroad, hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) has exported 1,160 kilos of hybrid rice seeds to Papua New Guinea-based private firm Calmwind Pty. Ltd. (CLP).

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“This export has a huge prospect for growth because rice is the staple in Papua New Guinea. Easily if they adopt it, it will boost their economy,” Dona Lim, SLAC assistant vice president for supply chain, said.

The export volume is expected to cover planting in a pilot area of 40 hectares in Gabadi, PNG.

PNG farmers had hardly planted rice despite the availability of land and water sources, Lim said, noting that PNG imports a significant volume of 300,000 metric tons of rice yearly from Australia.

“The rice business in PNG is very attractive as rice prices at retail are at around P100 per kilo, double that in the Philippines,” Lim said.

“As soon as farmers see the yield [of this hybrid], they would be delighted [to know]that it only needs P50,000 in production cost, and profit is big. Entrepreneurs will jump at this,” she added.

Filipino farmers earn a net income of P100,000 to P200,000 per hectare from hybrid rice.

SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said exports of this kind open up opportunities for the Philippines to extend and share its pioneering technology on hybrid rice to help other countries with less developed rice technology.

“It is advantageous” for PNG farmers to learn planting rice using this hybrid rice technology. “Technicians to be deployed by SLAC will aid New Guinean farmers,” Lim Bon Liong said.

The shipment was a combination of SL-8H, SL-7H (Jasponica Dona Maria premium rice), and SL-9H (Miponica).

The seeding rate is at 30 kilos per hectare. The absence of irrigation in PNG similar to many areas in the Philippines compels the need to use “dry seeding” technology. Overhead sprinklers will be used to irrigate the farm, the SLAC official said.

Frisco Malabanan, SLAC rice consultant, on the other hand, said that the Philippines could actually use PNG as an import source for rice since Manila still imports a huge volume of rice at more than 1.3 million metric tons.

“PNG may become our own source of rice because it has a huge area for planting rice. They had thought they could not plant rice in their land. But a Filipino has demonstrated planting rice [there]is possible,” Malabanan said.

He said that an expansion to commercial production of hybrid rice in PNG is highly prospective, adding that the government of PNG has been trying to attract such investment through its Investment Promotion Authority.

“The   Papua New Guinea government believes that the key to economic growth is the development of private sector investment both domestically and abroad. (To) attract investment, it must put in place a policy framework which will bring about that development,” he added.

PNG is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its imports come from Australia, Japan, the United States, Singapore, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong.

While it has export commodities coffee, cocoa, coconut (copra), oil palm and kernel, rice is largely an untapped crop.

PNG has tracts of land for rice reaching up to 300,000 hectares that may be a potential expansion area. JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ

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