PH farmers to work in rice demo farm in PNG

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 26 Feb) — The Philippines will send at least 22 farmers from North Cotabato to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to work in the 100-hectare rice demonstration farm that will operate after the signing of an agreement between the two countries, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol said.

Pinol said the farmers will come from his hometown in M’lang, North Cotabato. They will fly to PNG in April to start the development of the demo farm, which is located inside a university of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Port Moresby.

Farmers in Antipas town, North Cotabato harvest rice amid a severe El Niño phenomenon in this photo taken on April 5, 2016. MindaNews file photo by TOTO LOZANO

The secretary said and his younger brother, M’lang Vice Mayor Joselito Pinol, has talked about who to send to PNG.

During their stay in PNG, each farmer will receive a monthly salary of P25,000, free meals and housing allowances.

On March 7, Pinol will lead a delegation to finalize a bilateral agreement with his counterpart in PNG.

He stressed this will build stronger cooperation in agriculture and fisheries between the two countries.

He assured the government’s rice program will lead to food sufficiency for Filipinos even beyond 2020 with the country’s population growth pegged at 1.9 percent per annum.

“This rice program will ensure our future.  As I have explained to the President, the country is growing by 1.9 percent per annum.  With this rate, we might reach 200 million 50 years from now. Now that we’re at 103 million, it has become a difficulty feeding our people.  Our land area is only 4.9 million hectares,” said Pinol in an interview over Catholic-run DXND.

The secretary cited that PNG holds much potential in agriculture, yet only 400 of its 46 million hectares are planted to rice.

He said it was the PNG government that asked the Philippines to help develop its rice industry.

“The people in PNG were told that planting rice in their area is not possible, but we found out that there are a few industries that control their rice industry. They import rice. Could you imagine that a kilo of rice in PNG is equivalent to P100 per kilo?” he said.

He explained that under the proposed bilateral agreement, Filipino companies will lease PNG lands to produce rice to supply PNG’s national requirement of of around 400,000 metric tons.

He said excess production will be shipped to the Philippines as PNG rice exports.

“Which do you prefer? We import rice from Thailand and Vietnam that only the traders in those countries would benefit from our money or we buy the products of Filipino farmers in PNG?” he asked.

Pinol added that the Philippine government should consider outsourcing its rice supply from PNG rather than rely on imports from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and other countries in the Asia-Pacific. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)