Mindanao organic rice finds market in US

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DAVAO CITY — Organic rice produced in Mindanao now has access to the United States (US) after an agreement between farmers and an American marketing group here on Friday.

Dr. Adrian Tamayo, communications head of the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA), said Saturday the deal would allow American consumers access to organic rice and the heirloom Adlay variety produced in the Southern Philippines.

Tamayo said Andrew Bolougne, head of the US Marketing Firm, told the farmers to produce as much as they could and promised that they will market it.

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

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 the Mindanao Rice Forum organized by MinDA.

The Mindanao Rice Forum was attended by Adlay and Organic rice farmers associations and cooperatives.

Tamayo added that an initial shipment of 5,000 metric tons is expected by the end of the year.

During the forum, the participants, guided by the MinDA and the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices (DA-RFO) 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 as vice chairmen.

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

Tamayo said 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 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.

Don Bosco vice-chairperson and marketing officer Maria Helenita Gamela said organic rice farmers are not affected by the Rice Tariffication Law, and the unimpeded entry of imported rice that 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 from its members organic paddy rice at PHP19 to PHP20 per kilo. This could go even higher with the forging of the marketing agreement with the US group, Gamela said.

The export deal for organic rice and Adlay is the second marketing deal arranged by MinDA for Mindanao’s rice farmers. (PNA)

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