DAVAO CITY — Organic rice production and exports have been designated a priority program for the southern island next year, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.

MinDA’s Technical Working Group on Organic Rice Certification has been staging roadshows on International Organic Standards, with the fourth leg held in the town of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur last week.

Participants included over 200 organic farmers from Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur.

“These are the projects that we will be intensifying next year as this is also related to poverty reduction. Increasing farmers’ income will also go down to poverty reduction,” Undersecretary Janet M. Lopoz, MinDA executive director, said at the Habi at Kape forum last week.

Olie B. Dagala, MinDA Investment Promotions, International Relations, and Area Concerns director, said the development of the high-value organic rice is also intended to cushion the impact of the Rice Tariffication Law, or Republic Act 11203, which removes restrictions on the volume of imported rice and instead uses tariffs to regulate entry.

“After the rice tariff law, we have been monitoring whether farmers will abandon their farms or convert them,” Mr. Dagala said.

He said organic rice is a niche market with higher margins and export potential.

Currently, he said, organic farms are still small-scale. — Maya M. Padillo