COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Zac B. Sarian interviewing Julio Mirasol and his wife Rosalie. The couple plant organic rice on 6.8 hectares in the town of Moises Padilla, 80 kilometers from Bacolod City.

At the recent Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in Bacolod City, the colored rice varieties– the black, red and brown – were among the most conspicuous at the market stalls. Most are organically grown and they fetch a high price of P80 per kilo or thereabouts. Some were priced higher.

We were able to meet a number of growers as well as other stakeholders like a businessman who is trying to help the small farmers with limited resources.

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Julio and Rosalie Mirasol are showing their black rice in photo.

Many of the rice farmers in Negros till just about a hectare each. Some have just a half hectare. But there are also others with bigger hectarage.

One of the more successful colored rice producers is Julio Mirasol of Moises Padilla town. When he started planting organic colored rice in 2003, he planted only 3,000 square meters. From that area, he was able to harvest 39 sacks of palay weighing 45 kilos each.

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Close up of black rice from Iloilo. The grains are small, very soft and smooth when cooked, hence very nice to eat.

Most of the harvest w as for home consumption but if everything was milled and sold commercially, that would have given him a reasonable income. The milled rice was equivalent to 877.5 kilos with a gross value of P70,200. Julio really loves to grow colored rice for his own good reasons. He is now devoting 6.8 hectares to rice consisting of separate parcels.

Last October he was able to harvest 105 cavans of black rice palay from 1.5 hectares. That yielded 55 cavans of milled rice (45 kg per cavan) for a total of 2,475 kilos. At P80 per kilo, that’s a gross of P190,000 from that 1.5 hectares.

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Nicolas Narajos of Valladolid says the organic rice farmer has no cash out for his fertilizers because he makes them himself.

How about the cost of producing colored organic rice? Well, Nicolas Narajos of Valladolid, who is currently converting his farm into an organic farm, gave us the answer. He explained that more or less, the value of inputs in organic rice production is about the same as that of the conventional chemical system of farming. But there is a big difference.

In the conventional rice production using chemical inputs, he said that the farmer usually applies P12,000 to P15,000 worth of chemical fertilizers per hectare. In the case of the organic farmer, his fertilizers that include vermicompost and other materials like fermented fruit juice, fish amino acid and the like, are worth about the same. However, the organic farmer practically does not have cash expenses for those things because he makes them himself.

Julio Mirasol notes, however, that all is not well when it comes to the production of those colored rice by the small farmers who till just one half to one hectare. Most of the farmers would like to convert their palay into cash as soon as their crop is harvested. That’s because they need the cash for their family’s upkeep and to pay for their loans.

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Iloilo couple selling their colored rice at the Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival in Bacolod City.

The small farmers now prefer to plant the conventional varieties using chemical fertilizers. Why? Because as soon as they harvest their palay, they can sell the same to traders right after threshing. They can’t do that with the colored rice because there are no buyers of their palay. If the small farmer has to mill the palay and sell the milled rice, it will take time. He will have to bring his rice to the market for sale. That will entail transport cost and he will not be sure if he could sell all his milled rice in the public market. Most of the people can’t afford the P80 per-kilo rice.

COLORED RICE: Small Farmers Need Help
Businessman Ramon Uy (right) provides the market for the small farmers’ colored rice by buying their palay at a premium price.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION – There’s a possible solution to the predicament of the small organic rice farmer. Ramon Uy, the manufacturer of farm machines, has been helping small farmers by offering to buy their colored rice harvest at a premium. He mills the palay and sells the milled rice through his wife’s organic garden and restaurant and through his son’s outlet inside a big mall.

But Mr. Uy could not possibly cover all the farmers in the province. Perhaps, like-minded business people should take care of the produce of other clusters of farmers in other locations. Or the government could help link the farmers to the market.

At one time, the Department of Agriculture was crowing about the export of colored rice to special markets abroad. Perhaps, the DA should double its efforts in looking for markets abroad as well as locally. The only way to make farmers produce more colored rice is to enable them to sell their harvests at a profit.

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