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LandBank, Chen Yi ink deal to ‘revolutionize’ Leyte rice production

In Photo: Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) President and CEO Alex Buenaventura signs a loan for Chen Yi Agventures, to fund its rice-processing center in Barangay Mudburon, Alang Alang, Leyte, on August 16. Also present during the loan signing are Edward John Reyes, LandBank EVP for Agricultural and Developmental Lending; couple Patrick Renucci and Rachel Renucci-Tan, founders of Chen Yi Agventures; Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominic Petilla; and Alang Alang, Leyte, Mayor Reynaldo Capon Sr.

Story and photo by Elmer V. Recuerdo

ALANGALANG, Leyte—A new company is introducing a new business model aimed to revolutionize rice production in the country. It integrates seed growing, planting, farm management and harvesting.

Partnering with the Land Bank of the Philippines, Chen Yi Agventures hopes its business model will eventually be adopted as the national flagship for innovation in rice production.

Chen Yi Agventures is the first fully integrated and sustainable rice business of this scale in the Philippines, targeting up to 1.25 million sacks of palay for Phase 1 alone.

Chen Yi came to Leyte to help rebuild the province after the onslaught of Supertyphoon Yolanda, with the hope of uplifting its farmers from poverty in the process. Leyte is the fifth top rice-producing province in the country.

“By filling a gap in the market—developing the most technologically advanced postharvest facilities—Chen Yi will also be the largest producer that integrates seed growing, planting, farm management, harvesting and rice production in the Visayas and Mindanao,” a company statement said.

“The ‘Rice Revolution’ of Chen Yi fully mechanizes planting and harvesting for the first time in the country, increases the yield and the quality of palay and, therefore, the income of farmers, lowers production costs and the price to consumers of high-quality, premium rice,” it added.

“The ‘Rice Revolution’ enables the farmers of Leyte to be as competitive as their counterparts in Thailand and Vietnam while deploying the most advanced rice-processing technology to produce the affordable ultra-premium rice that Filipinos deserve,” the statement added.

Patrick François Renucci, a French-Italian entrepreneur and founder of one of France’s largest printing companies, moved from Paris to Alangalang, Leyte, in 2015 to set up the business with his Filipina-Chinese wife  Rachel Renucci-Tan, founder and CEO of TAN-EU Capital, a real-estate investment-management company based in Hong Kong and London. At its peak, TAN-EU Capital was managing over $1 billion, including a special situation real-estate fund in partnership with a leading real-estate developer in China, as well as a distressed Chinese real-estate fund that TAN-EU restructured to provide an exit for its investors.

A year prior to Renucci’s relocation to Leyte from Paris, London and Hong Kong, the couple decided to concentrate their resources in the Philippines, particularly in Leyte, to change the way rice is produced in the country.

“Chen Yi wants the ordinary Filipino to enjoy locally produced premium rice of the same quality as Thai jasmine, Basmati and Japanese rice. This is the rice that Filipinos deserve, rice that can be produced in Leyte and not imported,” Renucci-Tan said.

On August 16 the LBP officially sealed the biggest private-sector loan agreement in the agriculture industry with Chen Yi Agventures. Officials of both agencies refuse to divulge the amount involved in the agreement.

“We hope that, with the support of the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Rice Revolution will be replicated across the country and, someday soon, the Philippines will be self-sufficient and could even export rice,” the Renucci couple said.

The loan-signing ceremony was held on August 16 at the Chen Yi Agventures Rice Processing Centre in Barangay Mudburon, Alang-Alang, Leyte, with the LandBank President and CEO Alex Buenaventura; Edward John Reyes, executive vice president for Agricultural and Developmental Lending; and the Renucci couple. The signing was witnessed by Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominic Petilla and Alangalang, Leyte, Mayor Reynaldo Capon Sr.

“We own the first Yolanda-proof and earthquake-resistant rice-processing center of this size in the Philippines, and we are the first to use technology to merge and level disparate land parcels in order to create vast tracts of rice land similar to those found in Thailand, the US and Europe. These large, consolidated rice parcels can optimize irrigation, facilitate water management and, ultimately, reduce the cost of palay production,” Renucci said.

Through the Renucci Partnership program, Chen Yi organizes the farmers by providing low-interest loans in kind: organic fertilizers, pesticides and one kind of high-yielding inbred seed. Chen Yi also extends high-tech planting and harvesting equipment to all farmer members of the Renucci Partnership program, thereby increasing the quantity and the quality of their palay.

“Chen Yi is targeting no less than 3,500 farmers for Phase I alone and aiming to increase their profits by 8 times to 10 times while being a highly profitable private enterprise that delivers affordable ultra-premium rice to the consumers,” Renucci-Tan said.

Image credits: Elmer V. Recuerdo

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