As part of the its regional expansion program, hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. is set to conduct a pilot test of its palay technology in two Malaysian states, in time with the wet season cropping in April this year.
Manila-based SLAC, in partnership with private firm Titijaya Land Berhad (TLB) and the Malaysian government, will conduct the initial planting on some 1,000 hectares in the states of Penang and Kedah.
SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said they expect a high success rate with the pilot testing of the locally developed hybrid rice variety in Malaysia’s Mindanao-like climate.
“Given this potential commercial planting, the Philippines can be the first to introduce a highly suitable hybrid rice in Malaysia. Our hybrid rice was developed for a tropical climate. Malaysia has a climate much similar to our climate in Mindanao,” said Lim.
Lim said that TLB has already expressed interest in starting importation of seed from the Philippines in order to commence commercial planting of the hybrid rice. However, tests have to be separately carried out in Penang under federal rules.
“We are looking to ship out a minimum of 100 kilos of seeds for which quarantine processes are currently being arranged,” Lim added.
A minimum of one hectare may be set for testing for each of hybrid rice varieties SL-8H, SL-12H, SL-18H, SL-19H and SL-20H.
The official also noted that previous tests in Sarawak has been successful, giving a yield of 9 to 10 metric tons (MT) per hectare, which is significantly higher than the national average inbred rice yield in Malaysia.
“Unfortunately, we can’t just use the results of the test in Sarawak in order to right away do commercial planting in Penang because of Malaysia’s government policies,” he said.
A technical team from SLAC, led by rice specialist Dr. Frisco Malabanan, recently conducted a technical briefing on hybrid rice for the Malaysian government through its agricultural state research agency Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute.
SLAC has been developing links to Malaysian agriculture experts through its association with the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
On top of the interest to plant hybrid rice, private firms in Malaysia have also expressed intentions to import SLAC’s finished product, Dona Maria premium rice.
“This will demonstrate to the Malaysian market the good quality of Philippines’ hybrid rice,” Malabanan said.
Malaysia presently imports around 35 percent of its rice supply, largely from Thailand.
Malaysia’s rice production continues to be dominated by inbreds, although China’s rice producers have already sought to introduce hybrid rice in the country. The Chinese hybrid rice, however, which is suited for temperate climates, has not been successfully planted in Malaysia.
The Malaysian government has been seeking to raise self-sufficiency in rice production amid its limited rice area.