— A Saudi company is seeking joint venture agreement with the Philippine government for large-scale rice production, Manila Bulletin reported Wednesday.
Dr. Khalid Abu Al-Saud of Dar Al-Maskukat Trading in Riyadh, through a letter dated April 1, 2012, said the proposal for the long-term land lease of up to 200,000 hectares of rain-fed government land and private farms is targeted for the production of 1.2 million metric tons (MMT) of rice for the Saudi market.
The letter was coursed through Dr. Eduardo C. Sison, chairman of the Madecor Group of Los Ba?os, Laguna.
Dante Delima, assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture (DA) and coordinator of the National Rice Program (NRP), has already endorsed to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala a proposal to create a technical working group (TWG) to study the matter.
Saudi Arabia heavily favors basmati rice varieties, the very same varieties that the Philippine Department of Agriculture is now seeking to propagate in at least 10 rice-producing provinces nationwide.
In response to Al-Saud’s letter, Alcala’s letter dated May 7, 2012 said: "We share your enthusiasm toward this project, considering that such a joint venture will definitely boost our farmers’ income and provide opportunities to modernize their production and post-harvest capabilities."
He added: "We recognize that in the long run, this partnership could result in a mutually beneficial arrangement for both our countries as we cope with the international realities of food scarcity."
Alcala also told Al-Saud that the proposal will be considered in the light of the special rice varieties required by Saudi consumers and "the availability of large tracts of land that can be leased on a long-term basis."
The joint venture offer could spur the production of basmati rice varieties, three of which are now being propagated, with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) developing the seeds for distribution to rice farmers.