Fancy Rice Export Certification Planned

The government is coming up with a certification system for the export of fancy rice following encouraging high yields in upland areas. At present, export of rice is only allowed for high value specialty rice.

The certification would assure that rice varieties have consistent desired traits such as high yield, being sticky or aromatic. Once there are certified fancy rice seeds, these will be propagated especially in upland areas.

Part of the aim is to distribute seeds even as the Philippine Rice Research Institute has started distributing seeds to indigenous people in Zambales-- Subic, San Marcelino, Botolan, Iba, Masinloc, and Sta. Cruz.

However, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has yet to come up with an incentive program for massive planting of fancy rice. It is devising an assurance plan for a higher price and lower production cost for farmers.

''The main incentive is the price. If there's a good price, there's enough incentive,'' said DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, explaining that indigenous people (IP) farmers in identified areas like in Narra, Palawan should be protected from low prices offered by traders.

A mobile procurement program of the National Food Authority (NFA) is being implemented to ensure that rice production of farmers in farflung uplands may have access to NFA's higher price. This is a P1 per kilo premium on good quality dried rice.

The Philippines occasionally exports fancy rice, including colored rice (brown, red, black) or heirloom rice. But a bigger volume may come from the export of the fancy rice Jasponica.

''We're talking of exporting aromatic long grain rice and heirloom rice that (presently) goes to the United States. Even SL-7, the Jasponica rice, asked for a permit to export for some volume,'' said Alcala.

The Philippines has already been shipping out some upland rice particularly the Cordillera heirloom rice varieties ''Unoy'' and ''Tinawon.''

A rusty, red-colored rice, the Kalinga Unoy or ''Chong-ak'' has a sweet, nutty taste and unique aroma. The Ifugao Tinawon rice has large grains and is also aromatic.

Philrice and the Philippine Center for Post Harvest Development and Mechanization have earlier come up with an outdoor storage technology (OTS) for proper handling of the heirloom rice which retains the rice's good quality up to export destination.

The OTS is pumped with carbon dioxide to keep the product insect-free which is required by quarantine laws for export.

A customized processing system is also used for the heirloom rice. This involves machines composed of a specialized set of panicle threshers, hullers, and millers. The processing system was completed in 2009 and is now installed in key production areas in Kalinga, Ifugao, Benguet and Mountain Province.

Moreover, the Dona Maria Jasponica rice is presently eyed by producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) to be positioned to the status of fancy rice Hom Mali of Thailand.

''Hom Mali, Thailand's rice, is being used everywhere like the Basmati of India. Dona Maria is of export quality. Why can't we export it? We've already lost our Milagrosa (to Thailand). Dona Maria hasn't even reached Milagrosa's status. Hopefully we wouldn't lose Dona Maria,'' said SLAC Chairman Henry Lim.

Hom Mali, an African-origin Thailand-developed rice, is a globally-exported specialty rice, commanding a price of about $1,000 per ton. It is an organic rice that has applied with the European Union for Geographical Indication as coming from Thailand'sThung Kula Ronghai region.

While considered as fancy rice with the good eating quality as that of Thailand's Jasmine rice, the Dona Maria Jasponica is a actually a hybrid rice that has higher yield, by around 50 percent, compared to the traditional upland rice which usually gives only one metric ton per hectare.