The Department of Agriculture (DA) and AgriNurture Inc. (ANI) will develop 20,000 hectares of land in Mindanao owned by indigenous peoples (IP) into corn farms for the commercialization of ANI’s rice-corn blend project.
In a recent news briefing, the DA said it will undertake the development of IP lands in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for ANI’s bigas-mais (rice-corn), or BigMa project.
The DA added that it will also shoulder the initial corn seed requirements to cover the target area.
The agency said ANI will purchase the rice requirement for its BigMa project from the National Food Authority (NFA).
The DA said ANI and NCIP will negotiate and work out the terms for the development of the IP lands in one or two regions in Mindanao. Only certain areas of IP lands would be planted with corn for ANI’s project, the DA added.
“That will be the help that DA will provide. ANI will handle all additional investments for its project,” said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.
ANI President Antonio Tiu vowed to invest the company’s technical expertise and resources to ensure the success of its BigMa project.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with DA and our IP partners to help produce alternative staple food like the rice-corn blend to ensure food security,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“ANI commits its technical expertise and resources to see to it that this project succeeds from inception to full commercial operations,” he added.
In an earlier statement, Tiu said the rice-corn blend would be a “very good substitute” to rice, considering the perennial shortage of the staple in the Philippines, particularly during crises like the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Aside from being healthier and more affordable, corn is cheaper to produce and requires less water to grow compared to rice. With a similar four-month cycle, corn—unlike rice—can be planted anywhere without having to wait for the rainy season,” he said.
“Corn is 20 percent cheaper to produce and easier to grow and scale up since the Philippines lacks good water sources. While corn’s traditional yield is only 3 tons per hectare, ANI plans to use hybrid corn seeds to double the yield,” he added.
The ANI executive said the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a “perfect time” to promote the rice-corn blend, which is a Visayan staple, in other areas of country to reduce the Filipinos’ per- capita consumption of rice.
“Planting corn for blending purposes with rice will also spur economic activities in areas with lots of idle labor and unirrigated farmlands,” said Tiu.
“ANI is partnering with indigenous peoples to help them plant corn and make their idle labor and lands more productive,” he added.
The company said it recently launched its rice-corn blend product online. ANI is also part of the DA’s online Kadiwa system.