Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cordillera farmers in the Philippines discuss potential markets for their heirloom rice

BANAUE, Philippines—Farmers in the Cordilleras are now setting their sights at linking with dealers interested in marketing and promoting heirloom rice varieties locally and abroad.

Municipal and provincial local government units (LGUs), farmers in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and a team from the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) met in Banaue, Ifugao, 16-17 March (photo). They discussed business plans, market linkages, Geographical Indication (GI) registration, and other market-related concerns as the project moves forward into the third and final year of phase 1.

Participating farmers from Ifugao, Benguet, Kalinga, and Mountain Province provided comments on and suggestions to their specific business plans that contain detailed information and market strategies. The farmers and local champions started putting together these business plans in December 2015 under the guidance of the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-CAR and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

This activity is part of HRP’s component on linking farmers to the value chain. Under this component, heirloom rice farmers are being trained to understand the markets, within and outside the region and to expand their market base. The farmers are also being empowered to enter into transactions and promote greater equity in their trading partnerships.

The GI registration for heirloom rice varieties was also tackled. The group discussed the critical dimension of using the traditional names of heirloom rice varieties for registration. The GI tag ensures that only registered users residing within the geographic territory are allowed to use the product name. The GI tag also puts premium importance on traits linked to specific cultural origins.

“The uniqueness of marketing and branding heirloom rice varieties draws on the diversity of traits and the richness of cultural heritage,” said Dr. Digna Manzanillawho heads the component concerned with market linkage and value chain. “This regional diversity makes the rice varieties truly a unique brand to sell because these were handed down by the farmers' ancestors hundreds of years ago.”

Dr. Casiana Vera Cruz, project leader, agrees that the marketing of heirloom rice should significantly consider the unique characteristics of each variety.

The HRP hopes to create a sustainable and thriving heirloom rice industry for future generations through its partnership with the farmers and the continuous collaboration with the DA-CAR (led by Dr. Magdalena Manawan, chief of research, and Virginia Tapat, chief of the Regional Operations Division), the Philippine Rice Research Institute, and IRRI.

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