MANILA – To help ensure food security during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and beyond, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is supporting a proposal of publicly-listed AgriNurture, Inc. (ANI) to boost corn production and introduce its “BigMa” rice-corn blend to Filipino consumers as a healthier alternative.
In a letter to ANI president and CEO Antonio Tiu, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA is favorably endorsing and committing funds and technical assistance to make the company’s “BigMa” project a reality.
“Your proposal to produce and promote the ‘BigMa’ (Rice-Corn Blend) in the Visayas and Mindanao areas, and eventually in other regions of the country, is very laudable. This is a timely initiative as a food resiliency intervention amid this Covid-19 period and beyond,” Dar said in his letter to Tiu.
Aside from funding support, the agri chief said the DA will mobilize its Regional Field Offices (RFOs) and collaborate with the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) partner for the detailed planning and implementation of ANI’s proposal.
The DA earlier said it is eyeing portions of vast ancestral lands nationwide to be transformed into food production areas.
“In this time of crisis, we need practical strategies that can produce immediate results. Thus, we are calling on our fellow countrymen, the indigenous peoples (IPs) to transform part if not most of their idle ancestral lands into vegetable and high value crop farms,” Dar said.
Meanwhile, Tiu welcomed DA’s favorable endorsement of ANI’s BigMa project.
He said the rice-corn blend has been a staple food in many areas, particularly Visayas and Mindanao.
With the perennial rice shortage and as different rice exporting countries limit their shipments, Tiu said rice blended with corn grits is a very good substitute.
Aside from being healthier and more affordable, he said corn is cheaper to produce and requires less water to grow compared to rice.
With a similar four-month cycle, Tiu said corn — unlike rice — can be planted anywhere without having to wait for the rainy season.
“Corn is 20 percent cheaper to produce and easier to grow and scale up since the Philippines lacks good water sources. While corn’s traditional yield is only three tons per hectare, ANI plans to use hybrid corn seeds to double the yield,” he said.
Tiu added that with the expected food crisis, now is the perfect time to promote a Visayan staple to other parts of the country in order to bring down the per capita consumption of rice.
Planting corn for blending purposes with rice will also spur economic activities in areas with lots of idle labor and unirrigated farmlands.
“ANI is partnering with indigenous peoples to help them plant corn and make their idle labor and lands more productive,” he said.
ANI recently launched the BigMa rice corn blend through its aniexpress.1ani.com.ph online App.
Currently, the Philippines is producing 19 million metric tons (MT) of palay but only 8 million MT of corn annually. (PNA)