MANILA (April 30, 2012)–The Department of Agriculture in the Philippines is set to experiment on the production of ‘Basmati’ rice — an aromatic, long-grain variety grown in India and Pakistan – for possible export to Middle Eastern countries.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala last week approved the proposal of DA national rice program coordinator Assistant Secretary Dante S. Delima to conduct regional evaluation and on-farm production trials of three Basmati rice varieties nationwide.
The program is in keeping with agriculture and fisheries agreements forged March 25, 2012 between the Philippines and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar.
“We have talked to Qatar and Kuwait and they are willing to accept Basmati rice that we will plant,” Secretary Alcala said.
In a memorandum to Secretary Alcala, Delima said “we were informed that we have three outstanding Basmati rice varieties, two introduced and one bred locally, that have undergone adaptability trials at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), in Nueva Ecija.”
The regional evaluation system, formulated by former PhilRice chief and current DA rice program technical adviser Dr. Santiago R. Obien, shall try out the varieties of Basmati 370, 385 and CLS-1 initially tested at CLSU and PhilRice.
“These varieties have yields ranging from 3.5 to 5 tons per hectare, which are quite high under tropical conditions when compared to those grown in India and Pakistan, home of the Basmati rice varieties,” Delima said.
“With its aroma and excellent eating quality, Basmati has a very good potential for domestic production. Farmers in Iloilo and Bicol have reported harvests of from 90 to 120 cavans per hectare,” he added.
Basmati rice also has vast export potential because it is preferred in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, Delima added.
Basmati rice fetches higher than ordinary rice in international markets, averaging $1,000 per metric ton, as of April 2012.
With Alcala’s endorsement, the DA can now undertake large-scale Basmati rice evaluation in regional experimental stations and in farms of interested farmer organizations and irrigators’ associations (IAs).
“In preparation for an expected increase in demand for Basmati rice, we have to determine the nationwide adaptability of the current varieties, and eventually be able to identify the best sites for commercial production, processing and marketing,” Delima said.
For his part, Dr. Obien said Basmati has a generally lower yield compared to current inbred and hybrid indica rice varieties, but it could be increased depending on production technologies and variety improvement.
The field trial experiments will be funded using current research and development funds that are already released to the DA regional field units, Dr. Obien said.
The first component will involve evaluation and demonstration of the three varieties in one hectare per variety at the different regional field units.
The second component involves the commercial production of Basmati 370 by organized farmers such as IAs and farmers’ cooperatives.
The DA regional offices will be provided with at least 100 packs of 2-kilogram Basmati seeds to be distributed to selected farmer-participants. Each 2-kilogram pack is more than enough to plant 1,000 square-meter plots, and could yield 10 cavans or 500 kilograms of seeds that may be distributed to other farmers, Obien said.
“We have already issued the guidelines on seed utilization, planting methods, fertilizer application, and data gathering. And the evaluation plots shall serve as demonstration farms for farmers who are willing to be trained on the delicate techniques of Basmati rice production,” Obien said. (Adam O. Borja, DA National Rice Program)