RICE planted by Filipino farmers in Papua New Guinea (PNG) will be ready for harvest in December, to be sold in that country and the excess exported to the Philippines, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.
The DA cited an agreement reached by the two countries on Friday.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, who was the Philippine representative in the meeting with the government officials of PNG, said the rice was planted in August by farmers from North Cotabato, and has reached reproductive stage and may be ready for harvest by the end of December.
According to Mr. Piñol, the rice was planted at a 25-hectare demonstration farm, of which eight hectares was developed by the Filipino farmers.
“Under the arrangement, rice produced by Filipino farmers will be absorbed by the local market and the excess could exported to the Philippines,” Mr. Piñol said in a statement.
Mr. Piñol noted that PNG’s rice requirement is about 400,000 metric tons (MT) every year while the Philippines imports about one million MT annually.
According to Mr. Piñol, he was instructed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to pursue a Rice Development Project between the Philippines and PNG.
The MoA involves exchange of technology and assistance in agricultural development which include livestock, rice, and other crops.
“In the arrangements already set for the rice program, private Filipino agricultural groups and companies will be asked to invest in the rice industry of PNG. The PNG Government has offered to facilitate the use of the vast uncultivated lands for rice farming through a crop sharing agreement with the local landowners,” Mr. Piñol said.
“The Governor of a province has offered an initial 50,000 hectares of uncultivated land beside a huge river. He said as much as two million hectares could be developed into rice farms in his province,” Mr. Piñol added.
In a briefing, Mr. Piñol said the project was fully funded by the private sector, except the technical team which was initially sent by the Philippine government to conduct a site validation.
“Aside from the technical team that we sent for the project, there were no government funds spent,” Mr. Piñol told reporters.
He said there are ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and PNG on access to tuna fishing grounds.
“Since the early 80’s, Philippine fishing vessels have been given fishing permits and then fishing access is negotiated annually between the fishing companies,” Mr. Piñol said.
Each vessel used by Filipino fishermen must pay between $200,000 and $400,000, which PNG now wants to increase to $2 million.
“The new rate is unfair to the fishing companies, because they invested in PNG. They invested in processing facilities based on an earlier agreement allowing them to ship out a portion of their produce,” Mr. Piñol said.
“We’re still continuing our negotiations with PNG based on the issues raised by our stakeholders,” he said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio