Negros Occidental is bent on the promotion of heirloom rice by way of expanding the organic lands in the province.
Provincial Organic focal person, Corazon Galon, said demands for heirloom varieties such as the black, red, brown and even organically grown white rice are surging in the market.
Galon said they have already given technical trainings to some 800 rice farmers since the first day of the recent 14th Negros Island Organic Farmers’ Festival to lure them into growing heirloom varieties.
“Though the volume of produce is not as promising as the inorganic rice, farmers can still catch up on the price,” she said.
Special rice is sold at a higher price compared to commercial varieties and is considered a high-end commodity.
Pastor Jerry Dionson, a multi-awarded organic rice farmer, and one of the trainers in the rice seminar, said that unlike the hybrid varieties, heirloom rice is resistant to pest and diseases, hence ideal to grow in almost all agricultural lands, including the highland areas where there is no irrigation.
He said, the promotion of heirloom rice helped in the preservation of native varieties for future generation. Also, it is aimed at the preservation and protection of nature through responsible farming.
“Economically, we organic rice producers have edged over our peers and one outstanding example is the price. While commercial farmers were greatly affected during the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, we maintained our premium price, and yet consumers still buy our produce which simply means there is a rise of demand in the market because they like naturally grown rice,” Dionson added.
Locally, on the average, Negros Occidental, through the Family Farms Incorporated, a group of organic farmers, disposes of 500 sacks of organic rice, including special varieties, to the provinces of Cebu and Iloilo per week.
Moreover, Galon said that the province is nearing its target of 7 percent conversion of some 48,000 hectares of agricultural lands into organic farming.
Originally, Negros Occidental targeted only 5 percent from its agricultural roadmap until 2022, but it raised it to 7 percent as specified in Republic Act 10068, or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.
“The thrust of the provincial government for organic agriculture has paid off and organic lands now stand at 4 percent and still growing so that we are nearing the target,” she said, adding that the conversion process is a bit slow due to heavy traces of chemicals applied on the converted farm lands and ample time is needed.*
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