Preparing for the future: Filipino farmers to plant rice in Papua New Guinea farmlands

 Photo shows President Duterte and PNG PM O'Neil during the Bilateral Meeting in Vietnam last year courtesy of Malacanang Photos

On a report posted by Department of Agriculture (DA) Manny Piñol on his social media account, he proudly revealed that Filipino farmers will plant rice in Papua New Guinea farms.

The DA chief said that the president has already approved the travel of Philippine delegation to Port Moresby on March 7, this is to finalize a bilateral agreement between the two countries.

The purpose of the meeting is also to establish a stronger agricultural and fisheries stronghold between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

With this, the Filipino farmers would be allowed to plant rice in the farmlands of such a huge country of 46-million hectare with only 8 million population.

Below is the detailed report on this:

By Manny Piñol

President Rody Duterte has approved the travel of a Philippine delegation which I will head to Port Moresby on March 7 to finalize a bilateral agreement which would establish stronger agricultural and fisheries cooperation between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

The main feature of the proposed agreement is the bilateral cooperation in the Rice Industry where the PNG government would allow Filipino rice farmers to plant rice in the 46-million hectare nation with a population of only 8 million.

This will be the third engagement between the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines and the Ministry of Agriculture to Fisheries of PNG following a bilateral meeting between President Duterte and PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neil during the APEC Summit in Vietnam last year.

In the initial discussions between me and my PNG counterpart, Minister Benny Allen, the proposed bilateral agreement involves allowing Filipino companies to lease PNG lands to plant rice to supply the national requirement of the country estimated to be 400,000 metric tons.

Any excess production could be shipped back to the Philippines as PNG Rice Exports or could be exported to other countries in the South Pacific who have already manifested their interest to buy PNG produced rice.

It was in Vietnam when I personally briefed President Duterte on the rice supply status in the Philippines in the face of a very high population growth placed at 1.9% per annum.

I told President Duterte that even if the Philippines will achieve rice sufficiency by 2020 as projected by the DA, population growth will overtake the capacity to produce rice because of limited irrigated farm lands.

The President was briefed that to prepare for the future, the Philippines must consider outsourcing its rice supply rather than rely on imports from Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Cambodia and other countries.

Three countries were considered for the outsourcing project which would be purely a government-initiated but private sector funded undertaking and these include Cambodia, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea.

After consultations with top officials of the DA, it was decided that PNG is the more ideal country for the rice outsourcing program because of the very close relationship between the two countries and the presence of Filipino investors in the area, including processing and canning of Tuna.

Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to PNG Bienvenido Tejano informed me that the PNG government has long sought cooperation with the Philippine government in the development of the rice industry in the country.

Ambassador Tejano said PNG is blessed with a wide area of fertile lands crisscrossed by large rivers and does not suffer from typhoons like the Philippines.

During the Bilateral Meeting with PNG Prime Minister O'Neil, President Duterte officially informed PNG officials that he will dispatch an Agriculture Delegation which I will head to strengthen agricultural cooperation between the two countries.

President Duterte himself will visit PNG in November to attend the APEC Summit and by that time, he could witness the harvest in the rice demonstration farm.

The proposed project will not only ensure the Philippines of stable rice supply but will also employ thousands of rice farmers and agriculture graduates from the Philippines.

Initially, a team of 22 farmers will fly to PNG next month to start the development of a 100-hectare rice demonstration farm within a Seventh Day Adventist College compound in Port Moresby.

Most of the farmers in the first group are Ilocanos and Ilonggos from North Cotabato who will receive an initial monthly salary of P25,000 per month from a private company who will engage them.

Source: Manny Piñol Facebook 

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