Friday, March 13, 2015

Rice production in Papua New Guinea is now possible with SL-8 rice varieties

LA PAZ, Tarlac--Rice production in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is now possible with the introduction of SL-8 hybrid rice varieties.

According to Henry Lim Bon Liong, chairman of SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC), it was proven that SL-8 hybrid rice varieties could be well grown in PNG, in contrast to local producers’ belief that rice could not be produced in big volume in that country due to the soil condition that is not suited to rice.

Before the introduction of the SL-8 hybrid rice varieties, the PNG government imports an average of 150,000 tons yearly which costs them K700 or approximately Php12.5 billion as attested by statistician Stephen Mombi, Independent State of Papua New Guinea (ISPNG) Deputy Secretary for Agriculture.

Decades ago, efforts were exerted by various government and private sectors to upgrade rice production in PNG but did not succeed.

Liong said that PNG government officials were first hesitant to try hybrid rice varieties because of their beliefs that it is more practical to import rice rather than to produce locally.

The SLAC introduced first the SL-8H, SL-12H and SL-18H varieties in Village Garden Ltd. based in PNG and recorded good performance in Gabadi, the district in the capital of Port Moresby.

The first variety planted was SL-18H in November 2014 then SL-12H in January this year and SL-8H last February. It was the first known commercial rice production in that country.

Before the shipment of the seeds, SLAC technical consultant, Dr. Frisco Malabanan made an ocular inspection of the soil and the climatic conditions of Gabadi and reached a conclusion that the soil and climatic conditions were suited well and appropriate for rice production.

In the pilot site, dry land preparation without harrowing was introduced by Village Garden executive director Philip Davies. The practice is not common in the Philippines.

Instead of pre-germinated seeds which are directly sown, spreader was used instead of transplanting.

In the Philippines this is locally known as “sabog-tanim”, an approach similar to rain-fed rice system, Liong said.

In the absence of reservoirs such as dams or small water impounding projects (SWIPs), water pumps were installed in the nearby river banks and sprinklers where used to address the lack of irrigation water.

The practice save 74.5% of freshwater compared to paddy rice.

Noteworthy, was even without using any organic or inorganic fertilizers and pesticides throughout the cropping period, reducing further production cost and making rice farming more profitable.

At present, the PNG government is eyeing at least 160,000 hectares in arable land for massive rice production.

Joseph Yopiyopi, a parliament member from the East Sepik has offered 60,000 hectares of land in his district while another 100,000 hectares in the Belmeru area in the Gulf Province are being considered.

An initial 1,000-hectare area has been eyed and considered by business conglomerate in PNG to plant SL-8 hybrid varieties. (PNA)

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