President Rodrigo R. Duterte is set to hold talks on a food security agreement with Myanmar’s government that includes cooperation for the planting of hybrid rice on initially14,000 hectares in Myanmar.

Using the Philippines’ technology on hybrid rice, Myanmar will pursue a more expansive technology demonstration of hybrid rice under a possible bilateral agreement with the Philippines.

“Our visit in Myanmar with President Digong will talk about planting of hybrid rice on 14,000 hectares in Myanmar,” according to hybrid rice seed firm SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) Henry Lim Bon Liong.  Lim is part of the Philippines’ delegation to Myanmar along with other private sector representatives.

In a harvest festival Friday in Brgy. Triala, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, Lim said the Duterte Administration has declared further support to hybrid rice expansion in the country.  And that must include the country’s assistance to help other developing countries achieve improved rice production through hybrid rice.

The deal Duterte may sign with Myanmar will enable Philippines to participate possibly in helping restore Myanmar as the world’s biggest rice exporter (then its status prior to World War II).

From  years of less liberalized military rule that started to reform in 2010-2011, Myanmar has opened trade to the world with many multinational firms including Philippine-based companies already locating there.

Myanmar has around 17 million hectares (far bigger than other rice exporter Thailand and Vietnam’s rice area) of uncultivated arable land that can be planted on rice.

“Hopefully Kuya Rody – that’s how we call him in our Go Negosyo group—will be able to set  foot on a hybrid rice field soon and ensure that we won’t need to import rice,” said Lim.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol affirmed DA’s support in planting of hybrid rice on an additional one million hectares when he visited a hybrid rice competition in North Cotabato early this month.

“The Rice TWG (technical working group) targets an additional area of one million hectares to be planted to hybrid rice seeds in the next three years which theoretically are expected to yield an additional four million metric tons of paddy rice per year,” said Pinol in his March 13 Facebook post.

Lim said Pinol and Duterte are expected to visit hybrid rice fields this April 5 when the most successful hybrid rice farmers’ cooperative– Nagkakaisang Magsasaka Agricultural Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. (NMAP-MPC)  holds its own harvest festival in Tabacao in Nueva Ecija.

NMAP-MPC not only offers credit, but land preparation, milling, warehousing, post harvest, and marketing services to member-farmers in the rice central Nueva Ecija. It supplies 2,000 cavans of rice to UST hospital every 15 days.

Ricardo Buenaventura, NMAP-MPC president, has become a model pioneer in planting hybrid rice as he reaps at least 10 metric tons (MT) per hectare in the dry season from planting hybrid rice SL-8H.  That more than two times the national average yield in the country placed at 3.9 MT per hectare.

With hybrid rice, the country’s targeted rice self sufficiency is possible by 2020.

“With a milling recovery of 65%, the added production could yield 2.6-million metric tons of rice which is more than enough to cover the national shortage of 1.8-million metric tons every year,” said Pinol.

The Philippines has a huge potential to succeed in hybrid rice farming in Myanmar after SLAC found this viable in a 100-hectare farm in Yangon’s Dagon Township that yielded 1.5 MT per hectare of seeds.  

The pilot planting in Myanmar was under a joint venture with private companies Nine Seas led by Aung Tan Oo and Water Stone led by Filipino Norberto Ong.

Expansion of hybrid rice planting in Myanmar will likely be supported by microfinance function of Philippines’ microfinance leader CARD under CARDMyanmar Company Ltd.  CARD has started operating in Myanmar in light of trade and agriculture developments there. (Growth Publishing for SLAC)( Melody Mendoza Aguiba)