SL Agritech to supply hybrid rice seeds to India

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By Janina C. Lim, Reporter

IN A BID to boost its presence abroad, hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. has signed a deal with India’s National Seeds Corp. (NSC) Ltd. for the production, development, and marketing of the former’s signature seed variety.

“Hybrid rice is one of the technologies we see that can do wonders. You don’t even have to expand your rice areas, irrigate more lands. Just change seeds [and] you can immediately increase your yield,” Kuldeep Singh, National Seeds senior general manager, said during a briefing on Thursday in Makati City after it signed the memorandum of agreement with SL Agritech.

The Indian government-owned firm is looking to plant SL Agritech’s F1 or SL-8 hybrid rice variety on 2.5 million to 5 million hectares of land in the next five years.

To achieve this, National Seeds will increase the availability of hybrid rice seeds in India by cultivating ten hectares this year and a hundred hectares next year.

“Just to maintain food security in country we need to explore hybrid rice seed,” said Mr. Singh, noting India produces hybrid rice from about two million hectares or around 4.5% of the 44 million hectare-land area under rice cultivation. 

Mr. Singh said the firm took samples of the now adopted variety two years ago and tested it in seven districts in India to see if it brings favorable yields based on the area’s climate and soil conditions. 

“SL Agritech is very good than others and [it was approved]. After getting due approval we are here to sign agreement,” said Mr. Singh.

SL Agritech Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said the seeds can bring rice harvests of two tons per hectare if cultivated in “ideal good condition[s].”

“It can go up for four tons per hectare. [Some] 15 to 18 kilos can produce more than 10 tons per hectare already,” Mr. Lim said during the press conference on Thursday.

Meanwhile, SL Agritech has been granted the second highest rating for the P2-billion commercial papers it plans to issue.

In a statement released Thursday, Philippine Rating Services Corp. (PhilRatings) said it gave the hybrid rice seeds and premium rice producer an issuer rating of PRS Aa, indicating a positive outlook for the company’s growth prospects. 

The double “A” rating means the company has a strong capacity to meet its financial commitments, while a positive outlook indicates the rating has a chance to be upgraded in the next 12 months.

The local debt watcher attributed the high rating to SL Agritech’s market position as well as future plans.

“SL Agritech is reportedly the only vertically integrated rice company in the country, with its knowledge and experience encompassing the entire value chain – from hybrid rice seed research and development to production and marketing,” PhilRatings said in a statement. 

PhilRatings further noted the company’s stable financial positions, citing that its net income for the fiscal year ending May 31, 2017 accelerated 10.9% to P509.2 million due to robust sales in both hybrid sales and hybrid rice.

“Over the projected period, SL Agritech expects net income to remain robust. Earnings growth will continue to be supported by strong revenue generation, coupled with controlled cost management,” according to PhilRatings. 

In addition, PhilRatings said the company will benefit from the national government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the agriculture industry. Overseas, SL Agritech has also been expanding the production of its hybrid rice seed through foreign direct investments in Myanmar, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

SL Agritech is part of the Sterling Paper Group of Companies owned by the Lim family. The diversified conglomerate has businesses in the manufacture of paper products, importation and distribution of school and office supplies, furniture, retailing, real estate development, and agriculture. — with Arra B. Francia