Philippines’ 300 heirloom rice varieties and their Hong Kong fans eager to serve them to diners


    Biodynamic and organic rice varieties are more expensive than the polished grains most of us eat, but their intense flavours and chewy textures are increasingly drawing chefs and consumers in the Philippines and overseas
    PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 7:45am
    UPDATED : Friday, 02 June, 2017, 7:45am

    At Kin’s Kitchen in Hong Kong, chef and owner Lau Chun offers several types of rice with his Cantonese dishes, including grains from Taiwan and Japan. He’s eager to serve rice from the Philippines – if only he could get it. 

    “The grains are not polished, so they have a chewy texture and more intense flavour, very nutty,” he says of the black, brown and red Philippine rice he’s tasted. Fellow chef Margaret Xu had given him samples to try and now Lau is keen to add them to the “rice menu”, or to use them as stuffing for some traditional dishes.

    More at: “The rice I’ve

  • Philippines to import 250,000 tonnes of rice in June

  • A worker climbs on a pile of rice stock inside a warehouse of the government National Food Authority in Bicutan, Philippines, September 28, 2010. (Reuters file photo) -- The Philippines, one of the world's top rice buyers, will issue a tender to import 250,000 tonnes of the grain next month, to boost low stockpiles before the lean harvest season and to offset potential crop damage during the typhoon season.
    The tender is open to private traders in major exporters Thailand and Vietnam as well as other countries including top supplier India and Pakistan, the National Food Authority (NFA), the state grains buyer, said on Monday. Expectations of fresh rice demand from some of the world's top importers such as the Philippines and Bangladesh have pushed up prices in Thailand and Vietnam. The NFA will announce the bidding immediately after securing approval from the NFA Council, which may meet this week, NFA spokeswoman Marietta Ablaza told Reuters. The cargoes should arrive later in June or early July, she said. Government stockpiles have shrunk to the lowest in more than three years, just enough to cover eight days of national requirements. The NFA is mandated to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and a minimum of 30 days during the lean harvest season from July to September. The council will also finalise the import terms for up to 805,000 tonnes of rice that local private traders will bring in under an annual quota scheme, which should ensure supply even during the typhoon season, Ms Ablaza said. The Philippines' typhoon season typically peaks in October to December with the strongest storms landing then, damaging the country's rice crops. Manila is shifting away from buying rice under government-to-government deals to ensure competitiveness and transparency following accusations that some NFA officials were making money from such deals. The agency has denied any wrongdoing.
  • House bill filed seeking tariff regime for rice

  • THE chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food has filed a bill seeking for a tariff scheme for rice after the lapse of the waiver on the quantitative restriction (QR) regime by end-June.

    Anac-IP Rep. Jose T. Panganiban, Jr. filed House Bill 5433, which seeks to replace the quantitative restriction regime with a tariff scheme, while creating a fund dedicated to boosting the competitiveness of Philippine rice. Mr. Panganiban told reporters a hearing is scheduled for May 16 to discuss HB 5433 and other bills on QR, adding that the committee will try to approve it before the end of the first regular session on June 2. “We will try to approve it in the committee by but I don’t think it can be approved in the plenary [before June 2],” said Mr. Panganiban. In Mr. Panganiban’s measure, rice will now be among the agricultural products subject to tariff “in lieu of non-tariff import restrictions to protect local producers of agricultural products.” The measure also calls for a fund, financed from the duties collected from rice imports and the minimum access volume mechanism for five years from the effectivity of the law. The bill also requires the Department of Agriculture to establish a Rice Industry Roadmap “to restructure the government’s delivery of support services for the sector.” Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macagapal, former Agriculture Secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur C. Yap (3rd district), and Deputy Speaker Sharon S. Garin have their own versions of the measure, which are all pending at the committee on agriculture and food. Mr. Panganiban said that he asked House leaders to include the proposal as one of the priorities of the chamber. The QR scheme is a non-tariff measure that limits the amount of imported commodities. Rice is the only commodity in the Philippines that enjoys such special treatment, granted to the country through a waiver, upon acceding to the World Trade Organization in 1995. The Philippines has successfully sought to extend twice the use of the QR -- both in 2005 and 2012 -- and the waiver for its use is slated to expire next month. The minimum access volume currently stands at 805,200 metric tons with in-quota and out-of-quota import duties at 35% and 40%. The Philippine Institute of Development Studies has been pushing for a 35% tariff on rice, saying that such a rate would be favorable for local farmers as tariff revenue of rice imports could be used for other enhancement measures. The Philippines’ commitment to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) limits import duties of its trade-sensitive commodities such as rice at 35%. A tariff rate higher than the ATIGA baseline would require a series of negotiations with ASEAN members and may come at the cost of other tariff-sensitive products outside agriculture. -- Janina C. Lim
  • Rice imports deferred

  •  The government has decided to formally defer the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice despite the continued insistence of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy from international sources. File
    MANILA, Philippines -  The government has decided to formally defer the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice despite the continued insistence of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy from international sources.
     NFA administrator Jason Aquino had been pushing for an immediate government-to-government importation of 250,000 MT of rice despite a projected bumper harvest from local farmers. But during the NFA Council meeting last week, members decided not to approve the NFA’s proposal to import the volume via government-to-government scheme anytime soon. “We did not receive any approval. If we did, we would have received the letter saying we can proceed with the importation,” NFA spokesperson Marietta Ablaza said. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo warned that a government-to-government importation may expose the NFA to further indebtedness. “I think all of us what to make sure on one hand, the price of rice will be maintained and be stable, while at the same time avoid exposing the NFA to further indebtedness. We are also cognizant of the need to avoid getting more rice when you have the so-called summer harvest coming in,” he said. Guinigundo serves as the BSP governor’s representative to the NFA Council, which also include the Cabinet Secretary, the NFA administrator, chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines, president of the Land Bank of the Philippines, finance secretary, trade secretary, the National Economic and Development Authority and a representative of a farmer’s group. The 250,000 MT of rice is supposed to serve as the country’s buffer stock in preparation for the onset of the lean months. Under the law, the NFA is tasked to buy the palay produce of local farmers as buffer stock for calamities and other contingencies. President Duterte already ordered the NFA to prioritize rice purchase from local farmers, but the agency maintained that it can no longer buy more and hit its target following higher prices offered by private traders. NFA’s field monitoring shows traders are buying palay (unhusked rice) from the summer harvest at an average of P18-P20 per kilogram while the government support price remains at P17 per kg. The NFA targets to procure 4.6 million bags or about 230,000 MT of palay from local farmers nationwide until yearend to boost buffer stock and rice distribution requirements. As of the end first quarter, the NFA has bought approximately 21 percent of its 2017 procurement target. The palay-buying for the first three months of the year is significantly lower by almost 80 percent as it only bought 134,355 bags compared to the 603,915 bags in 2016 due to higher than average farm-gate price of palay. This year, the agency has a P5-billion budget for the procurement of palay. The NFA is mandated to maintain a food security reserve good for at least 15 days at any given time. By July 1, which marks the onset of the lean season for rice, the NFA must have at least a 30-day buffer stock to meet the requirements of victims of calamities and emergencies. Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s rice inventory in March declined by 19 percent to 2.18 million MT, from 2.67 million MT recorded a year ago. The agency reported that total rice inventory as of March was also five percent lower than the 2.3 million MT posted in February.

    ‘Rice stock still sufficient’

    But Guinigundo allayed fears of a possible uptick in rice prices amid the issues that hound the country’s rice importation, asserting that the country has ample supply until the end of harvest season. He said based on data from the PSA, the country’s rice inventory is still sufficient for 69 days. This rice buffer would be further augmented by the summer harvest, which will last until June. “We don’t believe rice prices will move up in a very significant way,” Guinigundo said during a briefing on the country’s first quarter 2017 inflation. Concerns of a possible rice inflation surfaced as Duterte decided to stop all rice importations in the country. Officials have also argued over rice import policies, whether to import through the private sector or through a government-to-government scheme. Guinigundo said the government also allows private sector importation through the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme, which is the country’s commitment to the World Trade Organization while its quantitative restriction on rice has not been lifted yet. In terms of the MAV, some of the rice imported by traders from abroad has not yet entered the country. “The decision of the council is to extend (MAV) to end-March 2017. But there were issues because some of the rice from abroad has not entered yet. Hopefully, this will be resolved soon so additional supply will be available and that will provide additional support to stability of rice prices,” he added.
  • Can he break world record rice harvest?

  • DENNIS MIGUEL AND HIS TEAM – At extreme right is Dennis Miguel with his of OJT students from the Isabela State University. They helped in implementing the rigorous requirements of the SRI technology which include reduced and controlled water application. They are shown here with their weeders which are used not only to eliminate the weeds but at the same time cultivate the soil for greater aeration. The picture was taken on February 28, 2017. On this very day, today, April 20, 2017, we will know if Dennis Miguel will succeed in breaking the world record rice harvest of 22.4 metric tons fresh weight or 448 cavans achieved by Sumant Kumar from India in November 2011. To surpass the record yield has been the obsession of Dennis who has planted a 1.5 hectare area in Purok 6, Brgy. Luna, Santiago, Isabela in his effort to achieve his big dream. He has used the so-called SRI or System of Rice Intensification technology. To help him take special care of the rice plants, he got the assistance of a team of OJT (on the job training) students from the Isabela State University. The students worked in the field from land preparation, planting, weeding and many other chores to make sure the plants will grow beautifully. He has invited us to witness the harvesting of his palay crop today and we are attending together with Anthony Cortes who also helped by providing the Supravim that was applied to the crop. Supravim is a plant growth booster that is sprayed on the leaves. It is claimed to induce development of more numerous roots that are longer, enabling the plants to absorb more nutrients from the soil and to withstand water stress better. It is also responsible for inducing heavy tillering resulting in more grains produced. We will be reporting what we will witness today in our articles in the Bulletin, Agriculture Magazine and the vernacular magazines published by Manila Bulletin. Earlier, Dennis sent us beautiful pictures of his rice plants during the vegetative stage. He reported that two weeks before panicle initiation, his plants had already achieved an average of 40 tillers per hill. If they will all bear good panicles, the yield could really be high. According to an experienced rice farmer, his own rice plants usually have 15 tillers or even less and he can already harvest more than a hundred cavans per hectare. On April 13, Dennis sent us the beautiful picture of the ripening panicles that are scheduled for harvesting today, April 20. We have posted the same in our blog and it has elicited “wows” from our pageviewers. They are asking what the variety is and if it could be planted in both the wet and dry seasons. The variety is Bigante of Bayer. To us, whether Dennis is able to surpass the world record or not, it does not matter much anymore. What matters more is the fact that he has produced such a beautiful rice crop through SRI or System of Rice Intensification. By the looks of the panicles in the picture that he sent us, we are almost certain that he could get at least 300 cavans per hectare and could be much more. And his experience could spur other farmers to adopt the technology he is using. That could help In a big way toward higher productivity in our rice farms. By the way, here is what we got about SRI developed by experts of Cornell University in the US.  The main principles are: (1) Early and quick and healthy plant establishment. The seedlings are transplanted at 2-leaf stage, 8-12 days old, seeing to it that the roots are carefully and quickly protected to minimize transplanting shock. (2) Reduced plant density – Plant one seedling per hill 25×25 cm apart on a square grid or wider in good quality soil. The wider spacing will encourage greater root and canopy growth. (3) Improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter. (4) Reduced and controlled water application. Most farmers, we believe, will find it difficult to adopt some of the requirements of the System of Rice Intensification. In an ordinary paddy where the water is not controlled, most farmers will find it difficult to imagine planting an 8-day-old seedling with only two leaves. The young seedlings could be easily carried away by the excess water during a heavy rain. But then some people can do it in a farm that is not exactly very small, just like the 1.5-hectare farm that Dennis Miguel planted. We imagine, the system is not for lazy farmers. But it is an opportunity for hard-working people to make their small farms truly productive. And by the way, here is more about the record yield of Sumant Kumar. The dried weight of the 22.4 mt fresh weight totaled 20.16 mt or 403.2 cavans palay. This was computed via crop cut from 50 sqm on the actual SRI plot.
  • PH to maintain QR on imported rice for 2 more years

  • THE Philippine government will retain for two more years the quantitative restriction (QR) for imported rice, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said Wednesday. Piñol said his office has also decided not to endorse the proposed amendment of the Tariff Code to lift the QR on rice and would instead endorse the extension of Executive Order No. 190 that imposed tariff rates for imported agricultural products, rice among them. This was despite the coming deadline for the Philippines to lift the QR on rice as part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The DA chief expressed belief it would be impossible to implement the lifting of QR on rice unless Congress passes the bill amending the Tariff Code. “The DA holds on to its original position that was developed after a nationwide consultation that Filipino rice farmers should be given another two years to prepare them for the eventual entry of imported rice,” Piñol said. “We believe that our rice farmers are not yet ready, through no fault of theirs, to compete with imported rice,” he added. Under its commitments to the WTO, the Philippines was supposed to lift the QR on rice years ago but the Philippine government negotiated an extension of its lifting to June 30 this year. Piñol said the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte, even if it wanted the lifting of the QR extended by another two years, could not do so anymore because of lack of material time. “It took the government two years to negotiate the current extension, which would last until June 30 this year,” Piñol noted. Instead, he said, the DA is counting on the reluctance of congressmen and senators to pass a new law amending the Tariff Code to implement the lifting of the QR on imported rice. “Even if the QR will be lifted by June 30, 2017, there will not be unregulated importation of rice without the implementation of the amendment to the Tariff Code,” the DA Secretary explained. If this happens, he noted, the Philippine government would have to inform the WTO that it has no option but to follow the democratic process and await Congress’ action on bills amending the Tariff Code. “We believe it will be a status quo (on the QR on rice) …. until the Tariff Code is amended,” Piñol said. "You cannot shortcut the democratic processes, these (chambers of Congress) are constitutional bodies, you cannot dictate on Congress to amend the Tariff Code if they do not want to (do so),” he added. (SDR/SunStar Philippines) Read more: Follow us: @sunstaronline on Twitter | SunStar Philippines on Facebook