SL AGRITECH: SOWING THE SEEDS OF PROSPERITY

Exactly a week before he died of cardiac arrest in April, former Food Ministry chief Jesus Tanchanco was in a harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. He was cheerfully advocating among the local farmers the use of hybrid rice seeds, as key to financial freedom and the country’s quest for rice sufficiency. The country’s first National Food Authority chairman was specifically vouching for SL-8H, a kind of hybrid rice seed developed and commercially propagated nationwide by Filipino-Chinese businessman Henry Lim Bon Liong. Henry Lim, Tanchanco said, is a Filipino who loves his country and intends to stay rooted in the Philippines for the rest of his life. The two gentlemen shared the same vision of a food-sufficient Philippines, backed by farmers who are not poor but living comfortably through dignified hard work. At the very least, Tanchanco had a glimpse of that dream. After 40 years since the Masagana 99 program under his watch, the Philippines last year started exporting rice again. On May 6, 2013, 35 metric tons of the staple was shipped from Manila to Dubai. The shipment consisted of 15 metric tons of organic black rice produced by farmers of Don Bosco Foundation for Sustainable Development Inc. in North Cotabato and 20 metric tons of aromatic long grain rice produced by Lim’s SL Agritech Corp.

ALSO: SL Agritech targets planting of hybrid rice on two million hectares

Philippines’ biggest hybrid rice seed firm SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) is targeting the planting of hybrid rice on two million hectares in five years in its aim to help boost Philippines’ rice sufficiency and potential rice export. “In three to five years, SLAC is aiming to feed 50 million people. By that time two million hectares must be planted to SLAC hybrid rice varieties,” said SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong. Convenors of the First Hybrid Rice Congress in the Philippines held in April this year supports the FSSP program that allocates some 400,000 hectares for hybrid rice by 2014. By 2015 to 2016, this area is foreseen to grow to 500,000 hectares. READ MORE...


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SL Agritech: Sowing the seeds of prosperity


SL Agritech founder Henry Lim Bon Liong with the late former Food Minister Jesus Tanchanco in a rice harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija in April 2014.

MANILA, MAY 26, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Maricor Zapata - Exactly a week before he died of cardiac arrest in April, former Food Ministry chief Jesus Tanchanco was in a harvest festival in Talavera, Nueva Ecija. He was cheerfully advocating among the local farmers the use of hybrid rice seeds, as key to financial freedom and the country’s quest for rice sufficiency.

The country’s first National Food Authority chairman was specifically vouching for SL-8H, a kind of hybrid rice seed developed and commercially propagated nationwide by Filipino-Chinese businessman Henry Lim Bon Liong.

Henry Lim, Tanchanco said, is a Filipino who loves his country and intends to stay rooted in the Philippines for the rest of his life. The two gentlemen shared the same vision of a food-sufficient Philippines, backed by farmers who are not poor but living comfortably through dignified hard work.

At the very least, Tanchanco had a glimpse of that dream. After 40 years since the Masagana 99 program under his watch, the Philippines last year started exporting rice again.

On May 6, 2013, 35 metric tons of the staple was shipped from Manila to Dubai. The shipment consisted of 15 metric tons of organic black rice produced by farmers of Don Bosco Foundation for Sustainable Development Inc. in North Cotabato and 20 metric tons of aromatic long grain rice produced by Lim’s SL Agritech Corp.

SL Agritech now continuously exports its Doña Maria premium rice brand to Dubai and other parts of the Middle East. France’s Carrefour, Europe’s biggest supermarket chain and world’s second biggest retailer next to Wal Mart, offered to distribute the Philippine-grown fancy rice.

Packed in two-kilogram, five-kilogram, and 10-kilogram bags, SL Agritech’s Dona Maria rice exports are mainly meant to cater to rice-loving Filipinos in the Middle East, where they usually eat rice imported from Thailand.

“Half of the Dubai population are Filipinos,” relates Donna T. Lim, the family firm’s assistant vice president for supply chain. “We did a little twist on our packaging to make them support Philippine-grown rice, and therefore help Filipino farmers.”

Doña Maria rice, named after Henry Lim’s late visionary mother, is mainly produced in a farm in Davao Oriental through contract-growing. SL Agritech provides the seed to the farmers for free, and then buys all the harvested crops at higher-than-market prices.

The Lim family notes that if their company’s export volume keeps its pace, it would be more than enough to hit the Department of Agriculture’s export target of 200 metric tons for 2014.

Last October, Doña Maria rice was also placed on the shelves of supermarkets in Los Angeles, California in the US, with international retailer Triple A as distributor.

Alongside these rice exports, SL Agritech is also selling hybrid seeds to other countries, primarily, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

“It’s so ironic, we sell seeds to Vietnam but buy rice from them,” laments Henry Lim.

Just recently, the National Food Authority awarded to two Vietnamese companies the supply of 800,000 metric tons of rice to be imported in batches from May to August this year.

Agriculture officials explain that the rice imports, despite the country’s renewed ability to export the staple mainly through private sector initiatives, are only for the government’s buffer stock for the lean months of July to September, and as contingency stock for calamities.

Over a year ago, the Asian Development Bank reportedly cautioned the Philippine government from aggressively pursuing its no-importation and rice sufficiency goals. The ADB said this might muddy the country’s trade commitments with rice exporting nations.

Of late, according to the Vietnam Food Association, Vietnam’s rice export industry has been feeling the pinch of lower demand from major customers like the Philippines and Indonesia, which are all working for rice self-sufficiency.

Meanwhile, SL Agritech is looking at Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam for additional cultivation areas for development of more hybrid rice, even just for its SL-8H variety. The company will provide the parental seeds and technical assistance.

“Hybrid rice is not GMO (genetically modified organism),” stresses Lim. “Like with Filipino-Chinese people, hybrid rice is just the product of a cross pollination process between two different superior rice varieties.”

The conventional inbred rice, he explains, is the product of just one rice variety, as rice is a self-pollinating plant.

Lim invested P100 million to put up SL Agritech in 1998 and study the hybrid rice technology. He sought the guidance of Prof. Yuan Long Pin of China, who has been credited globally for turning his country into the world’s top rice producer because of his hybrid rice technology research.

In turn, Lim introduced hybrid rice farming in a commercial scale in the Philippines in 2001, when he came up with SL-8H. Unlike the hybrid rice seeds in China, the SL-8H is suited to the Philippines’ tropical climate. SL Agritech has since come up with more superior hybrid rice varieties.

Farmers who use SL Agritech’s hybrid rice varieties profess that their crop yields have gone up by at least 16 percent compared to when they used inbred rice seeds. Some even claim their earnings have doubled, as their crops, specifically from SL-8H, have commanded higher prices in the market due to better quality, in terms of size, texture, and taste.

They say the slight difference between the cost of hybrid and inbred rice seeds is more than compensated by the income they generate from using hybrid rice seeds. They add that sowing hybrid rice seeds has elevated their living standards and enabled them to see their children through college.

Lim tells the farmers in Tagalog: “It’s your choice. If you want to keep riding a tricycle, you keep using the traditional inbred rice. If you want to drive your own Pajero, then you shift to hybrid rice.”

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics also noted that hybrid rice producers are more disciplined and confident of their agricultural skills compared to their peers.

While some farmers groups in the country rant about poverty, inequality, land reform, and demand for government support, hybrid rice producers are happy and proud of their work.

“Farming is in the heart,” says 74-year-old farmer Severino Payumo from Nueva Ecija in Tagalog. Payumo posted the country’s highest record of harvesting over 345 cavans (17.28 metric tons) of paddy in a single hectare of land in 2012. That’s more than double the average yield per hectare from the conventional inbred rice seeds.

The Philippines has about 150,000-180,000 hectares of land planted to hybrid rice, only a small fraction of the country’s total rice lands.

SL Agritech accounts for about 80 percent of the local hybrid rice seed market. The rest are from several other private companies and government entities, according to the Philippine Rice Research Institute.

“We still have a long way to go,” says Lim, adding that more government support in terms of information dissemination and technology demonstrations in various parts of the country is needed to further spread the benefit of hybrid rice nationwide.

But he frowns at the idea of government rice subsidies, saying it is a double-bladed proposition. He says infrastructure support and post-harvest facilities are much more necessary and effective.

FROM BUSINESS DIARY DOT COM DOT PH

SL Agritech targets planting of hybrid rice on two million hectares in five years as DA sets Food Staples Sufficiency target of 22.73 million MT by 2016 December 13, 2013 AgriBusiness No comments 0 0 20

Philippines’ biggest hybrid rice seed firm SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) is targeting the planting of hybrid rice on two million hectares in five years in its aim to help boost Philippines’ rice sufficiency and potential rice export.

“In three to five years, SLAC is aiming to feed 50 million people. By that time two million hectares must be planted to SLAC hybrid rice varieties,” said SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.

Convenors of the First Hybrid Rice Congress in the Philippines held in April this year supports the FSSP program that allocates some 400,000 hectares for hybrid rice by 2014.

By 2015 to 2016, this area is foreseen to grow to 500,000 hectares.

As SLAC supports DA’s FSSP target to also expand production of other staples like banana, cassava, sweet potato, and corn, SLAC believes rice will remain to be the staple of many Filipinos.

Providing for hybrid rice expansion will be a major answer to meeting sharply increasing food demand that may result in any food shortage.

SLAC’s specific target is to plant hybrid rice on 500,000 hectares.

“If 500,000 hectares are planted to hybrid rice, this can give an incremental yield of three to four tons per hectare. That would equate to an additional two million tons of paddy rice. At 65 percent milling recovery, this can feed 10 to 13 million people at 100 kilo per capita consumption,” said Lim.

Higher income

SLAC has been part of the Aquino government’s rice export program which is hoped to enable Filipino farmers to earn higher from rice planting.

The export program involves export only of premium quality rice, bringing an export price of at least $1,000 per MT compared to just around $500 per MT for regular rice.

As hybrid rice gives a high average yield of 7.5 MT per hectare compared to inbred’s four MT, farmers also benefit significantly from higher income.

His income can reach a net of P50,000 to P100,000 per hectare. Inbred rice farmers only earn a net of P15,000 to P30,000 per hectare.

Of the estimated 400 MT rice export for the year, SLAC accounts for more than 100 MT of the rice shipped to Dubai, Singapore, and the United States.

The company has been partnering with local government units, including Cagayan, Bohol, Isabela, and Nueva Ecija in the aim to raise hybrid rice production.

In order to achieve its five-year target, SLAC is entering into Private Public Sector Partnership or PPP. It is collaborating with private seed companies, traders and millers, input providers (fertilizer and pesticide suppliers), credit and insurance providers, and DA agencies.

SL-8H areas

Lim said SLAC would not want the Philippines to be left behind in the global hybrid rice technology’s progress. This is amid SLAC’s own leadership in hybrid rice industry in South East Asia.

SL-8H seeds are targeted to planted on 410,000 hectares outside of the Philippines. These are 150,000 hectares, Bangladesh; 200,000 hectares, Indonesia, and 60,000 hectares, Vietnam.

The country’s hybrid rice area peaked to 360,000 hectares in 2005 at the height of the hybrid rice seed subsidy program of the government.

However, in 2011, when the subsidy was removed, hybrid rice area declined to 180,000 hectares.

While the Philippines was among Southeast Asian pioneers in hybrid rice technology since this was introduced early in the last decade, the country is now third from the last among eight identified countries.

The biggest hybrid rice areas as of 2011 were in India, two million hectares; Bangladesh, 700,000 hectares; Indonesia, 650,000 hectares; Vietnam, 595,000 hectares; United States, 439,000 hectares.

The last three countries (and continent) were Philippines, 180,000 hectares; Myanmar, 78,000 hectares; and Latin America combined, 70,000 hectares.

FSSP

The FSSP set a target area for the planting of high quality hybrid seeds plus nitrogen. This is 250,000 hectares for 2013, 400,000 hectares for 2014 and 500,000 hectares for 2015-2016.

From a target of 20.04 million MT in paddy rice production for 2013, DA’s FSSP has targeted rice production to increase to 21.5 million MT in 2014, 22.13 million MT in 2015, and 22.73 million in 2016.

Targeted area from irrigated system (where hybrid rice is mostly grown) is 16.3 million MT in 2013, 17.78 million MT in 2014, 18.37 million MT in 2015, and 18.9 million MT in 2016.

From non-irrigated ecosystems, it will be 3.75 million MT in 2013, 3.72 million MT in 2014, 3.75 million MT in 2015, and 3.83 million MT in 2016.

National yield average is projected to increase from 4.23 MT per hectare in 2013, 4.43 MT per hectare in 2014, 4.48 MT per hectare in 2015, and 4.53 MT per hectare in 2016.

Target area for high quality inbred seeds plus nitrogen including those that will use Integrated Crop Management is 742,500 hectares in 2013, 937,500 hectares in 2014, 1.137 million hectares in 2015, and 1.237 million hectares in 2016.

Dona Maria

In its own contract growing arrangements for the Dona Maria Premium Quality Rice, SLAC also plans to expand in Visayas and Mindanao.

These two major islands have high potential growth with the urbanization of major cities like Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Tacloban, Davao,and General Santos.

SLAC’s top yielder-farmers have demonstrated that SL-8H can be a far superior rice variety than inbreds. Its highest yielding farmers’ records are 17.28 MT per hectare, Severino Payumo, Nueva Ecija; 17.2 MT, Aida Badong, Camarines Sur; 14.57 MT, Freddie Dalisay, Occidental Mindoro; and 14.02 MT, Severino Velasquez, Nueva Ecija.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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