Mindanao farmers to export rice to US

MINDANAO organic farmers and a U.S.-based marketing group forged an agreement Sunday, September 22, 2019, which would allow American consumers access to organic rice and adlay produced in the Southern Philippines.

“Produce as much as you could and we will market it,” said Andrew Bolougne, head of the U.S. marketing firm which is also importing green and matured coconuts from the Philippines.

The signing of the marketing deal with unlimited volume of white, brown, red and black rice and the exotic adlay grown by the tribes capped day-long Mindanao Rice Forum organized by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) held at the Grand Regal Hotel.

The Mindanao Rice Forum, sponsored by Seedworks Philippines and AMO Organic Fertilizer, was attended by adlay and organic rice farmers associations and cooperatives.

During the forum, the participants, guided by the MinDa and the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional offices in Mindanao and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), organized themselves and formed the Mindanao Organic Rice Council (MORCO).

Chosen as interim chairman of MORCO was the Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative with Agro Eco Philippines and SRII Technology Group.

Represented in the Council are organic rice farmers’ cooperatives and associations from all over Mindanao; organic fertilizer and soil ameriolants producers group, seed growers and rice millers.

MinDa will be the lead government agency to support the group with the assistance of the DA and PhilRice.

MinDa will establish a database of all organic rice and adlay farmers in Mindanao, including the geotagging of the production areas.

Availability of seeds for the black organic rice, which is the most sought-after product, will also be determined, including the estimated production.

Bolougne, who led the U.S. group which signed the marketing agreement with Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said the demand for organic rice, especially the black rice which is reputed to have medicinal benefits, is huge and largely unfilled.

“You cannot imagine how huge is the market demand for organic food today and we will cash in on that,” he said.

Bolougne's group committed a buying price which would give farmers double what they are earning by planting commercial rice.

Don Bosco vice chairperson and marketing officer Maria Helenita Gamela said organic rice farmers are not affected by the Rice Tariffication Law which allowed the unimpeded entry of imported rice which resulted in low farm gate price for commercial rice.

"We have a niche market. The price is steady whole year round but we cannot produce the needed volume," she said.

Currently, Don Bosco buys organic paddy rice from its members at P19 to P20 per kilo. This could go even higher with the forging of the marketing agreement with the U.S. group.

The export deal for organic rice and adlay is the second marketing deal arranged by MinDA for Mindanao's rice farmers.

Earlier, MinDA arranged the export of Mindanao premium rice to Papua New Guinea.

An initial shipment of 5,000 metric tons is expected before the end of the year. A delegation from Papua New Guinea, led by Central Province Governor Robert Agarobe, is now in Mindanao to inspect the production areas and the processing facilities. (PR)


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