Farmers urged to plant black rice

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Sunday, May 12, 2013


KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The black rice, once considered "forbidden" and food served only for the emperors, now comes to ordinary homes in Central Mindanao.

In fact, at least 500 hectares of land in the region are planted to black rice, according to Romano Laurilla, general manager of the Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC).

Their products are certified organic by certifying bodies in Europe and in the Philippines.

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These indigenous varieties of rice are rich in fiber and antioxidants and are consumed by health conscious-people and those wanting to lose weight or on a diet, he said.

The coop and the Don Bosco Foundation Inc., had since promoted organic farming in early '90s. "Yet, it's only recently that we have exported large tons of organic rice to rich countries like Dubai," said Laurilla during a press briefing held at the DA-12 Research Outreach Station in Kidapawan City, on Friday.

For the first time in 40 years, Laurilla said the Philippines had a large shipment of black rice to other counties.

On May 6, the co-op, with partnership from the Department of Agriculture, exported at least 15 metric tons of aromatic, long-grain, and organic black rice to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

These tons of black rice, according to DA regional executive director Amalia Jayag-Datukan, were produced by farmers from M'lang, North Cotabato who are members of the Don Bosco multi-purpose cooperative.

Wide hectares of black rice are also planted in Tulunan and Midsayap in North Cotabato and towns of Surallah and Santo Nino in South Cotabato province.

Datukan said additional tons of black rice and other organic rice would be shipped anytime this month to Macau, Netherlands, and in other countries in Europe.

She said the exportation of black rice from Central Mindanao through partnership with the Don Bosco MPC will continue and would open 'bigger market tie-ups.'

Laurilla was also jubilant about the expansion of their advocacy on organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

He said it was not easy to introduce organic rice, much more black rice, to local farmers and consumers.

"Many of our farmers are hesitant to produce black rice because they think there would be no enough market for their products. Local consumers also do not want to eat black rice because of its color. Little did they know this black rice is a lot healthier than the hybrid rice," he said.

This is the reason why the co-op is also strengthening their information dissemination and farmers' education, aside from looking for available markets here and abroad, he added.

To encourage farmers to plant black and other colored rice, the coop gives P3 for every kilo of their products as incentive.

The price is also affordable even to ordinary homes, according to Laurilla.

In Kidapawan City, a kilo of black rice is sold at P47.

The Don Bosco MPC has at least seven outlets in Central and Southern Mindanao: 2 in Kidapawan City; 1 in M'lang, North Cotabato; 2 in Davao City; and one each in cities of Koronadal and General Santos.

The coop is the first to receive an international certification from Certification of Environmental Standards, a European-based certifying body, according to Laurilla. Also, they have certification from the Organic Certifying Center of the Philippines

The black rice, based on research, is high in nutritional value and contains 18 amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene, and important vitamins. In China, black rice is claimed to be good for the kidney, stomach, and liver.

Black rice is a deep black color and usually turns deep purple when cooked.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 13, 2013.

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