SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC), the producer of Dona Maria premium quality rice, is raising 20,000 sacks of rice through October under its “Balik Biyaya” program to be given away to El Nino-affected farmers particularly in Visayas and Mindanao, the company said in a press conference Wednesday.
“We’re raising 20,000 sacks of rice under our ‘Balik Biyaya’ program because we want to give back to our farmers who are the ones feeding the nation,” said SLAC spokesperson Michelle Lim-Gankee.
Lim-Gankee said that to effectively drum up support to combat hunger, SLAC not only tapped humanitarian agency Red Cross International but is also tapping celebrity Alden Richards and other known personalities who could encourage more Filipinos to support farmers.
“It’s really worrisome that the very people who harvest and plant our rice are the ones that don’t have anything to eat. Join our program Balik Biyaya to help our hungry farmers. For every purchase of Dona Maria or Willy Farms rice, we will donate rice to our farmers in Visayas and Mindanao. Let’s all help feed a farmer,” said Richards in a statement.
For every two kilos of Dona Maria or Willy Farms rice bought at participating supermarkets, SLAC will give away 400 grams of rice to affected Filipino farmers. For every five kilos of Dona Maria or Willy Farms rice, donation to farmers will amount to one kilo, while a 10-kilo purchase is equivalent to a two-kilo donation to farmers.
Tiffany L. Ngo, SLAC marketing manager, said SLAC has also partnered with Alagang Kapatid Foundation for Balik Biyaya.
As part of helping rice farmers, SLAC has been traditionally buying rice from farmers at a price higher by P2 to P3 per kilo from rice farmers under its contract growing program.
“We’re subcontracting the growing of Dona Maria rice on 10,000 hectares. We buy rice from our farmers at P2-P3 more per kilo more compared to market farmgate price,” said SLAC CEO Henry Lim Bon Liong.
Reports from the Department of Agriculture indicated that Mindanao was hit hardest by the El Niño drought phenomenon in the first half of the year. Other provinces seriously affected by the drought were Isabela, Cagayan, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and parts of Ifugao and Kalinga provinces.
In Maguindanao alone, an estimated 17,000 hectares of rice and cornfields were reported damaged, consequently causing the province to be placed under a state of calamity. More than 20,000 farmers were affected in Maguindanao.
The Department of Agriculture estimated agricultural damage from El Niño from January to May 2016 was P7.013 billion. Rice farmers were the most adversely affected, with an estimated 117,790 hectares of rice area damaged, and a lost rice value of P3.489 billion.
Lim pointed out that many more Filipino farmers could be helped when the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) hybrid rice program becomes successful. The DA plans to expand hybrid rice cultivation area to one million hectares. Present hybrid area is about 350,000 hectares.
“If we have one million hectares for hybrid, we will be sufficient. Beyond one million hectares, we will be an exporter,” Lim said.
With DA’s help on irrigation and other assistance (credit, crop insurance), more Filipino farmers will have access to higher standard of production that SLAC practices, the company head added. Lim highlighted Dona Maria’s certification for Halal, Good Manufacturing Practice, and ISO, and SLAC’s state-of-the-art storage and heavy use of mechanization in rice production by its contract farmers.
Hybrid rice farmers can earn P100,000 to P150,000 per hectare with a production cost of P30,000 to P35,000 per hectare using hybrids as they are able to harvest 9 to 10 MT per hectare, Lim said.
With only a P4.5 billion yearly budget for hybrid seeds (P4,500 per hectare for one million hectares), the Philippines can become rice sufficient, Lim said, saving P28 billion in rice imports. From 2005 to 2010, Lim said the Philippine government imported 800,000 to 1.2 million MT of rice yearly. Import cost was P18 to P34 billion a year and shot up to P50 billion at one time when traded rice price soared to about $1,000 per MT.
When milling recovery is raised to 65 percent from around 50 to 60 percent, 2.5 million MT of rice would be added to yearly production, more than enough to feed the nation, Lim added.