AN INITIAL 5,000 metric tons (MT) of rice from Mindanao will be shipped to Papua New Guinea following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between farmers’ groups represented by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and PNG’s Central Province government.

MinDA Chair Emmanuel F. Piñol, in a post on his social media page Friday, said he signed the agreement on Sept. 5 with Central Province Governor Robert Agarobe in Port Moresby.

Mr. Piñol said the export deal, which covers premium quality and organic rice, is intended to “protect the region’s farmers from the adverse effects of massive rice importation.”

The first shipment will be sent “as soon as the export documents are completed.”

Under the program, Central Province, through its Economic Enterprise Office, will import the Mindanao rice for distribution in the province and other parts of the country.

Mr. Piñol, citing PNG Prime Minister James Marape, said there is “a niche market for good-eating quality rice” in PNG, which imports about 400,000 MT of rice annually from Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mindanao produced 4.26 million MT of rice in 2017, according to MinDA data.

Mr. Piñol, who served as head of the Department of Agriculture before moving to MinDA, said the agreement is an offshoot of the December 2017 meeting between President Rodrigo R. Duterte and then PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neil in Da Nang, Vietnam.

In 2018, the two countries signed an agricultural cooperation agreement.

Mr. Piñol said MinDA is also planning to link Mindanao’s poultry farmers with PNG for the export of dressed chicken. — Marifi S. Jara