Philippines eyes export of Basmati rice
MANILA, Philippines—In line with President Aquino’s plan to make the country a rice exporter after 2013, the Department of Agriculture said it is developing areas for the planting of Basmati rice as a flagship export product.
Department officials said the government is piloting areas to test Basmati rice crops in the Philippines as the country becomes self-sufficient in rice and sells its surplus harvest abroad.
One of the Aquino government’s medium-term goals is to halt the importation of rice, the main staple, by 2013. Recently, President Aquino said the country would start exporting grains after that goal is achieved.
The agriculture department said the first few shipments of Basmati rice, a potential lead export product for the grains industry, will be headed to the Middle East.
Dante Delima, head of the department’s national rice program, said the department will be testing varieties of Basmati rice developed by the in four regions. The university has enough Basmati rice seedlings for 450 hectares.
“Last year, we had a taste test with the Saudi Arabians who came here. They liked one of the varieties,” he said.
By the third or fourth quarter of 2013, the department hopes to send some of the high-value grains to the Middle East for further taste tests.
Delima said the department hopes that Middle Eastern buyers would invest in post-harvest facilities in the areas where Basmati rice will be grown.
Basmati rice is a long-grain variety. Unlike the typical rice eaten by Filipinos, Basmati rice is not sticky and is dry. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are the big exporters of this variety.
The agriculture department has identified an area in Compostela Valley that could be perfect for Basmati rice production. Delima said the town of Maragusan, a plateau, is ideal as it is an upland area with 6,000 hectares of farmland.
Delima said Basmati rice could be planted in 1,000 hectares.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala stressed that the Philippines would only export rice once it has filled the local demand. Officials also said that export grains could be planted only in undeveloped lands so as not to displace the varieties eaten by Filipinos.
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