MANILA, Philippines – Premium rice from the famous Cordillera mountains is now making its way to groceries in California, United States.
On September 20 at the Manila International Container Terminal, the Department of Agriculture sent off 15 metric tons of organic heirloom rice harvested by indigenous rice farmers in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) bound for the US.
The shipment, valued at P870,000, is composed of 10 tons of mina-angan rice from Banaue and hungduan rice from Ifugao. The remaining 5 tons are composed of “ulikan” rice from Pasil and Lubuagan, both municipalities in the province of Kalinga.
The rice was shipped out on September 21, Saturday and will arrive in the US in 23 days.
The tons of rice were put together by Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC), an organization of rice farmers in Ifugao, and Eighth Wonder Inc, a US-based non-government organization helping market Cordillera rice for export.
Targetted to be an annual export, the shipment of Cordillera heirloom rice was called by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala “a milestone in government’s effort to expand markets from premium varieties.”
“These grains represent the best in the Cordilleras, notably the industry and ingenuity of its people, as they are organically grown, and manually harvested and pounded to perfection,” added Marilyn Sta Catalina, director of the DA’s regional office in CAR.
Aside from promoting the diversity and quality of Philippine rice, the shipment also highlights the legacy of the famed Cordillera Rice Terraces, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
“This will help sustain the status of the rice terraces as a world heritage treasure,” said Alcala.
Preserving indigenous farming
The 15 metric tons is only part of the total 27.6 metric tons of Cordillera rice to be shipped to the US this 2013. The remaining volume is undergoing organic fumigation at a Philippine Rice Institute laboratory in Nueva Ecija as required by US sanitary and phytosanitary regulations.
The rice was bought from 272 farmers from Banaue, Ifugao and Kalinga.
To date, 97 tons of heirloom rice has been shipped to the US including the “Mountain Violet” variety from Mountain Province, Kalinga’s “unikan” red grains and Ifugao’s “tinawon” and “diket.”
In a press statement, the DA said it is pursuing a campaign to preserve farming practices in the northern regions of the Philippines. The agency awarded a P20 million grant to the Ifugao provincial government to rehabilitate the Batad rice terraces.
Another rice exporter, SL Agritech Corp., recently announced that its brown and white rice products under brand names Doña Maria Jasponica and Miponica will be sold in the branches of French supermarket chain Carrefour in Dubai and Los Angeles soon. – Rappler.com
Cordillera rice terraces image from Shutterstock