Philippine economy

Philippines, Papua New Guinea ink deal on agriculture cooperation

Aika Rey
Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol says Filipino farmers will be sent to Papua New Guinea to plant rice

DEAL. Philippine Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol and Papuan Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allan sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the Joint Rice Development Project between the Republic of the Philippines and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea in a ceremony at the Pacific Adventists University in Papua New Guinea on November 16, 2018. Screengrab from RTVM

MANILA, Philippines – The governments of the Philippines and Papua New Guinea signed a deal on agriculture cooperation on Friday afternoon, November 16 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, during President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit.

The memorandum of agreement will formalize cooperation on rice production reasearch and development, and in rice farming technology between the two countries.

The deal was signed by Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and Papua New Guinea Agriculture and Livestock Minister Benny Allan at the Rice Demo Farm on the ground of the Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea.

The Philippine-Papua New Guinea Rice Demo Farm is envisioned to establish a model seed farm for improved rice production between the two countries

Upon the signing of the agreement, the Philippines is expected to produce more rice in Papua New Guinea.

During the signing, Piñol said that Filipino farmers will be sent to plant “the rice that Papua New Guinea needs,” and “bring back the extra rice to the Philippines.”

He said that the Philippine government imports about 1.2 million to 1.5 million metric tons (MT) of rice every year from Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, and India.

“We are projecting that in the years to come, [they] might not be able to supply the needs of my people. We are looking forward [to this deal]. So when I talked to [Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido Tejano], I told him, ‘You know, your idea of planting rice in Papua New Guinea is great,” Piñol said.

The agreement covers the following:

  • Partnership with the Philippines to produce more rice in Papua New Guinea, with mass production of rice to be established in the latter
  • Establish a model seed farm that will be a source of certified rice seeds for commercial and small-holder farmers
  • Production of rice and grains, industrial crops such as coconut, cocoa, coffee, rubber, and palm oil, and horticultural crops and spices
  • Aquaculture and inland fish farming, livestock breeding
  • Post-harvest development
  • Training on biosecurity mechanisms and systems for monitoring
  • Development of agribusinesses, and technical training for the establishment of agribusiness resource centers
  • Development of irrigation facilities for large-scale rice production
  • Exchange of experts, farm technicians, tax-free supplies, and equipment

Piñol on Friday said that the agreement was the result from the meeting of Duterte and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill during the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation held in Vietnam last November 2017.

An official delegation was sent to Papua New Guinea in March. They were composed of experts from the PhilRice, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and private sector partners.

Papua New Guinea imports around 98% of the nearly 400,000 kilos of rice it consumes yearly. It is said, however, that only 50,000 hectares of its 2 million hectares of suitable agriculture lands is required to meet the country’s rice needs.

In April, the Philippines suffered from rice shortage, leading to higher rice prices. To tame the soaring prices of commercial rice in the market, the government decided to import one million MT of rice. (READ: Taming rice prices: What lawmakers, experts say)

Piñol in August warned that relying on imports to meet the country’s rice demands was “problematic.”

Various farmers’ groups previously expressed concern over rice imports, as they are unable to compete with the low prices. – with a report from Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.