‘Rico’ blend seen cutting PHL’s rice imports

In Photo: The National Food Authority (NFA) stores its buffer rice stock consisting of imports and paddy it purchased from farmers in its warehouses. The government is banking on the rice-corn blend to significantly reduce the country’s reliance on rice imports.

The consumption of rice-corn (Rico) blend will help corn farmers earn more and allow the Philippines to end its reliance on imported rice, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a social-media post President Duterte will personally endorse the rice-corn blend as the country’s “new staple” in Davao City on December 22.

“President Duterte’s endorsement of the blended rice and corn as a national staple food on December 22 will not only offer a healthier option for the Filipino consumer, but will finally erase the image of corn as a poor man’s ‘rice,’” Piñol said in a Facebook post on December 5.

“More than that, the acceptance by Filipino consumers of the blended rice and corn, or bigasmais  will finally end the country’s dependence on imported rice to fill up the shortfall on the rice requirements of the Philippines,” he added.

The DA chief said the consumption of rice-corn blend could wipe out the country’s rice-supply shortfall by 2019.

“[Rico] would end the country’s rice-supply shortfall with the infusion in 2019 of about 500,000 metric tons [MT] of corn grits and 1 million metric tons in 2020, thus effectively achieving food-staple sufficiency for only the second time in the history of the country,” Piñol said.

He added the rice-corn blend is a healthier option for Filipino consumers as it has a low
glycemic index.

Apart from these reasons, Piñol said the government is promoting the consumption of the Rico blend because it will give farmers an assured market for their produce.

The DA chief added the government, in partnership with the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize), will roll out the rice-corn blend next year.

“The bigas-mais  blend will also be offered to the public initially in the outlets of the National Food Authority  in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Baguio and other big cities,” he said.

Piñol added the Rico blend will be affordable because it will be sold at around P35 per kilogram (kg), lower than the P50 per kg consumers spend for white rice.

The DA said the event in Davao City will also be attended by representatives from the country’s large supermarket chains, including Ayala Abreeza Malls, SM Supermarket, Rustan’s, Robinsons and PureGold.

Earlier, Philmaize said they are targeting to sell at least 30,000 MT of rice-corn blend next year.