• SL Agritech set to start rice planting in PNG

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    Hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) will ship hybrid rice seeds to Papua New Guinea as part of its pioneering work to introduce Philippine rice technology to the Pacific island nation.

    “We will plant rice initially on 30 hectares of rice lands in PNG, which virtually has no rice technology to speak of,” said SLAC Rice Consultant Frisco Malabanan.

    Malabanan said the company will ship over the next two weeks hybrid rice varieties SL-8, SL-18, and SL 12, which are bred for the wet season cropping.

    The seeds are expected to arrive in Gabadi (near the capital) during the two-week period, after which quarantine preparations will be completed. Gabadi is northwest of PNG’s capital, Port Moresby.

    “This is a great opportunity for us to use Philippine technology to help Papua New Guinea,” said SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.

    A total area of 300,000 hectares will be available for rice planting in PNG.

    The Department of Agriculture sees PNG as a potential rice area that can help the Philippines fulfill its rice self-sufficiency goal, Malabanan said.

    “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 that planting rice is possible [there],” he said.

    Philippine exports of hybrid seeds are being undertaken in partnership with a private company backed up by former PNG Minister of Agriculture Roy Ebarra.

    The move is supported by Philippine Ambassador to PNG Bienvenido Tejano, who earlier tried planting rice in PNG and proved that rice planting is viable there.

    Despite its rich natural resources—land and water—PNG has remained dependent on rice imports from Australia for many years. It imports about 300,000 metric tons of rice yearly.

    “There’s no agricultural production yet (in Gabadi). But there’s a lot of water—rivers, for example, and ground water is available just four to five meters below the ground,” said Malabanan.

    There is also a potentially attractive margin for planting rice in PNG. The absence of any rice supply means the commodity can be sold at a very attractive level of P100 per kilo.

    Given a lack of irrigation facilities, SLAC will demonstrate the effectiveness of dry direct seeding technique, which, contrary to the usual practice of rice planting, will not involve sowing pre-germinated seeds.

    Overhead sprinklers will be used to irrigate the farms. Australians, according to Malabanan, have been known to get a good yield out of dry direct seeding from rice. This technique may give more than 10 metric tons per hectare of rice yield.

    SLAC will send its technical staff and a farmer-technician to PNG to train local farmers.

    Malabanan said the Philippines was able to tap the PNG hybrid rice seed market by coordinating with former Isabela Governor Edwin Uy and an Australian philanthropist.

    New Guineans traditionally eat boiled banana, boiled yam and other root crops.
    The large identified rice area in PNG may turn out to be a possible source of rice for the Philippines as PNG has a population of only 7 million.

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