THE International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) said it signed a seven-year limited exclusive distribution license for its hybrid rice seed with Philippine company Tao Commodity Trader, Inc. (TCTI).

In a statement, IRRI said that under the agreement signed on July 30, TCTI will invest in the development, production and distribution of seed, commit to certain sales targets, and partner with microfinance firm Alalay Sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI), in providing farmers with training, technology, and financial assistance. ASKI currently has a client base of 18,000 Filipino farmers.

“Today is a significant day for IRRI as we enter into this new partnership with TCTI, an industry-respected and established group, that can help bring some of our innovations to our main clients — the countless farmers and consumers who depend on the rice sector for their food, nutrition, and livelihoods,” Dr. Peter Brothers, chief of staff of IRRI, was quoted saying.

TCTI is a subsidiary of Tao Corp., the largest trader of molasses in the Philippines. This arm specifically focuses on the rice seed market, and is a member of the IRRI-led Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC). HRDC takes on the development of hybrid seed suited to various agro-climatic conditions. Member companies are allowed limited exclusive access to the consortium’s germplasm.

The agreement covers three seed variants, Mestiso 71, Mestiso 77, and Mestiso 89. These varieties promise higher yields, better quality, improved resistance to pests and diseases, resilience to climate stresses, and higher seed production. The varieties promise yield gains of up to 20%.

“As IRRI strives to achieve food and nutrition security, we always emphasize the importance of building strong partnerships with different organizations to achieve our mission,” Mr. Brothers said.

“This historic partnership between Tao Corp. and IRRI could not have come at a more opportune time, when our rice farmers are facing very tough times due to challenges on several fronts — from climate change to unfavorable market conditions. Through this joint undertaking with IRRI, we can extend much needed help to our rice farmers,” Julio D. Sy, Jr. chief executive officer of TCTI, said in a statement. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang