SLAC eyeing to export rice grown in Myanmar

Hybrid rice seeds producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) said on Tuesday it is targeting to export rice grown in Myanmar to European countries, China and the United States.

Company officials made the pronouncement after SLAC’s pioneering trial of hybrid rice seed SL-8H in Myanmar yielded 150 metric tons (MT) of seed per hectare on 100 hectares in Yangon’s Dagon Township.

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

“We can export our Doña 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,” SLAC Chairman Henry Lim said in a statement.

The company noted that the Philippines has limited flat land for rice, but Myanmar has around 17 million hectares of uncultivated land that can be planted with rice.

Formerly Burma, Myanmar used to be world’s biggest rice exporters prior to World War II, when it was then under British rule.

SLAC technical consultant Dr. Frisco M. Malabanan said the company is targeting to export rice from Myanmar to European countries where the commodity enjoys zero tariffs.

Other potential export destinations for Doña Maria rice from Myanmar are China and the US. When exported, the Filipino brand name “Doña Maria premium rice” would be retained “for consistency in the world market.”

Because it is only now that agricultural land in Myanmar is being tapped, SLAC said the soil is fertile.

“The area is very good for seed production. There’s enough water.  The soil is very fertile and can be easily mechanized,” said Malabanan, who led a harvest festival in Myanmar on May 7.

Visitors during the harvest festival were World Food Program Representative Nway Wyit Yee Zaw; Department of Agriculture Dagon Township Chief Officer U. Thwin Soe; Philippine Consul General to Myanmar Maria Lourdes M. Saskedo; SLAC hybrid rice breeder Dr. Weijun Xu; and SLAC Vice President Christian Brian Lim.

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.

Expansion of hybrid rice planting in Myanmar will likely be supported by microfinance function of Philippines’s microfinance leader CARD, under CARD Myanmar Company Ltd. CARD has started operating in Myanmar in light of trade and agriculture developments there.

SLAC said it will create a sales and marketing team to sell SL-8H seeds in Myanmar. It will also install a cooling system in one of the warehouses of Nine Seas to preserve the quality of the hybrid rice seeds.

Company officials said it will partner with local government units, the Ministry of Agriculture, and International Rice Research  Institute to train Myanmar farmers.

“It seems there is also a need to bring machine operators from the Philippines, three to five tractor operators to ensure good land preparation.  Weeds grew because land was not well-tilled,”
Malabanan said.

In partnership with government representatives who attended the harvest festival, including Parliament representatives, SLAC urged Myanmar to provide support to farmers who will plant 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,” he said.

SLAC said rice production cost in Myanmar is 50 percent lower than in the Philippines.

Image credits: Web Site of SL Agritech Corp.


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