The Philippine Star

Myanmar seen as jump-off point for Phl rice exports


Myanmar is set to become a viable production site for Philippine­s’ rice exports after a successful hybrid rice field trial in the ASEAN neighbouri­ng country.

Hybrid rice and seeds producer SL Agritech Corp. successful­ly led a pioneering trial of hybrid rice seed SL- 8H in Myanmar which yielded 150 metric tons ( MT) of seeds per hectare on the 100 hectare Dagon township in Yangon.

“The area is very good for seed production. There’s enough water. The soil is very fertile and can be easily mechanized,” SL Agritech technical consultant Frisco Malabanan said.

Also planted were commercial table grade rice SL-7H (Dona Maria Jasponica) on 11 hectares, SL-9H (Miponica) on 28 hectares and SL-8H on 20 hectares.

“We can export our Dona Maria Jasponica and Miponica rice from Myanmar. Consumers in Myanmar may not want soft and sticky rice, but that’s our opportunit­y to export rice harvested from there,” SL Agritech chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said.

Malabanan said another advantage in exporting rice from Myanmar is the preferenti­al zero tariff for European destinatio­ns.

Other potential export destinatio­ns for Dona Maria rice from Myanmar are China and the US.

Myanmar has around 17 million hectares of land, far bigger than other rice exporters’ uncultivat­ed land.

The Philippine­s, on the other hand, has limited flat land for rice.

It used to be the world’s biggest rice exporters prior to World War II when it was under British rule.

The opportunit­y in rice farming in Myanmar is vast. With a more fertile land, less fertilizer will be needed in order to gain a higher targeted yield.

Production cost may be around 50 percent lower compared to the Philippine­s.

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.

SL Agritech is urging the government to provide support for hybrid rice.

“If the farmers are not trained, they will not buy the seed. We also have to seek partnershi­p with the Ministry of Agricultur­e for policy support,” Malabanan said.

To expand its hybrid rice production in Myanmar, SL Agritech will partner with local government units, the Ministry of Agricultur­e and Internatio­nal Rice Research Institute to conduct training for farmers.

It also plans to hire three to five tractor operators from the Philippine­s to do land preparatio­n for at least one month.

A sales and marketing shall likewise be formed to sell harvested 120-150 MT of SL-8H seeds in Myanmar.

SL Agritech is one of the largest hybrid rice producers in the country. It produces the Dona Maria brand of premium rice in Miponica and Jasponica varieties.

It holds 70 percent of the total market share of hybrid varieties in the Philippine­s.

The company has various partnershi­ps for hybrid rice seed production in Asian nations such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

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