Consumers, buyers and farmers alike contribute in expanding the market of one of Cordilleran’s pride – the traditional or heirloom rice.
As healthy foods are garnering attention in the world as people are becoming health conscious, the market of organic products is increasing. International Rice Research Institute’s (IRRI) Dr. Bob Zeigler said, “Some consumers are even ready to pay extra money for high quality foods that are rich in specialized nutrients.”
Based on the baseline nutrition analysis of selected heirloom rice varieties done in 2014 at IRRI, heirloom rice is rich in iron, sodium, calcium, niacin, potassium, niacin, folic acid, proteins, carbohydrates and antioxidants. which are being sought after by health practitioners especially in all product labels. While in terms of antioxidant properties, the more colorful the grain, the higher the antioxidant contents.
According to heirloom rice farmers, the demand for heirloom rice is growing resulting to shortage of supply.
Rowena Sawil, heirloom rice farmer from Kalinga, confessed there are times they cannot meet the demand of buyers due to lack of supply. On the other hand, the situation may also mean the sprouting of opportunities to other farmers.
Sonia Pengosro of Benguet Heirloom Rice Terraces Farmers Agriculture Cooperative said that the conversion to the traditional practice of planting heirloom rice will contribute in the preservation of culture and tradition. It aide will in the rejuvenation of the environment while earning reasonable income.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) Cordillera, IRRI and PhilRice and the farmers are currently working together to conduct studies regarding the nutritional value, genetic diversity, grain quality and the development process toward Geographical Indication (GI) Registration of the different varieties of heirloom rice to add value in its market.
“The GI registration will command a 100% increase in the value of heirloom rice in the Cordillera due to its ethno diversity. It is also a way of promoting traceability of the product; the farmers and locale,” said Dr. Digna Manzanilla, co-project leader of the Heirloom Rice Project.
Meantime, the DA continues its promotion to the local and international market.
“Maraming salamat at naisali itong Heirloom rice sa HVCDP. Dito ma recognize uli in the whole world ang heirloom rice ng Cordillera,” said Wasig Sacla, an organic farmer, as he and alongside his fellow organic farmers thanked the DA-CAR, IRRI, PhilRice and DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol for their unceasing efforts to promote and preserve the region’s heirloom rice.
Organic farmers, heirloom rice farmers, buyers, local officials, and heirloom rice key spokespersons from DA-CAR, IRRI, PhilRice came together to educate each other and address issues regarding the conservation, preservation and market of the region’s heirloom rice for its sustainable development. This was during the conduct of the Regional Heirloom Rice Market Encounter and Organic Agricultural Investment Forum cum Exhibit spearheaded by the Agri-business and Market Assistance Division of DA last October 26 and 27.//JMD