Patents on the menu as PH prepares to export ricePhilippine Daily Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY—The Department of Agriculture is asking the public to help it design the official brand name and logo for the different traditional varieties of Philippine rice, which the government plans to export starting next year, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said here on Monday.
But the rice patents, which the government will secure, will belong to communities where the rice originated, among them the rice terraces of Ifugao, said Danilo de Lima, coordinator of the National Rice Program.
Alcala and De Lima were here on Monday to assess the impact of last week’s heavy rains on highland farms and to meet with farmers in Benguet.
De Lima said the government will choose two varieties of homegrown rice, produced by each rice-growing province, for inclusion in the assortment of products that would bear the Philippine brand.
But these products will be competing with rice from traditional exporters, like Pakistan, which have brands or patents for long-grained cereal that the Philippines also plans to export.
Alcala said tight competition in the world rice market has forced the government to patent its own brand immediately to protect local grains.
De Lima said the Philippines has the richest cereal inventory compared to other Southeast Asian countries. He said the latest count shows that the country has up to 6,000 registered rice varieties.
Heirloom rice, or rice produced in upland Cordillera farms including those grown in Ifugao’s rice terraces, is at the top of the list of government’s premium rice. “These varieties will sell well in the markets,” De Lima said.
He said the agency has decided to make the sources of these products as owners of the heirloom rice patents, so royalties would be funneled back to the farmers who produce them.
De Lima said the government is studying how to assign Philippine rice with bar codes that would reflect the product’s origins.
But the best feature of the export rice products are their DNA records, he said.
Both the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute have been mapping out the genetic codes of the country’s rice varieties, “so we can prove the lineage of our rice once we start exports,” De Lima said.
Alcala said only the weather remains an obstacle to fulfilling full rice self-sufficiency by 2013, which would justify the export next year.
According to the agency’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program, “the total palay production [of the Philippines] has generally been growing since the 1970s, reaching a peak of 16.8 million metric tons in 2008.” Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon