The Philippines is poised to pioneer hybrid rice farming in Malaysia through an initial pilot testing in Penang and Kedah which may start by the wet season planting by April this year.
The pilot testing is foreseen to be succeeded by commercial planting on around 1,000 hectares.
It will be spearheaded by a private Malaysian company, Titijaya Land Berhad (TLB). It will be in partnership with Malaysian government through agricultural state research agency Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI).
Filipino firm SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) may ship out a minimum of 100 kilos of seeds for which quarantine processes are currently being arranged, according to SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.
“Given this potential commercial planting, the Philippines can be the first to introduce a highly suitable hybrid rice in Malaysia. Our hybrid rice was developed for tropical climate. Malaysia has a climate much similar to our climate in Mindanao,” said Lim.
A technical briefing on hybrid rice was conducted last January 26 to 28 by SLAC for the Malaysian government through the Ministry of Agriculture’s MARDI.
Previous pilot tests in Sarawak, Malaysia has been successful, giving a yield of 9 to 10 metric tons (MT) per hectare. This is significantly higher than the national average rice yield of inbred in Malaysia.
“Unfortunately, we can’t just use the results of the test in Sarawak in order to right away do commercial planting in Penang because of Malaysia’s government policies,” according to Dr. Frisco M. Malabanan, SLAC hybrid rice specialist.
Titijaya has expressed interest to already start importation of seed from the Philippines in order to commence commercial planting of the hybrid rice. However, tests has to be separately carried out in Penang under federal rules.
Malabanan led the technical briefing of agriculture experts of MARDI as led by its director general, Dato’ Dr.Sharif Haron.
A memorandum of agreement between SLAC, Titijaya, and MARDI is being set for signing.
Titijaya is set to enter the agreement through its managing director Tan Sri Dato’ S.P. Lim.
SLAC has been developing links to Malaysian agriculture experts through its association with the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
A minimum of one hectare may be set for testing for each of hybrid rice varieties SL-8H, SL-12H, SL-18H, SL-19H and SL-20H.
On top of the interest to plant hybrid rice, private firms in Malaysia have also expressed intention to import SLAC’s finished product, Dona Maria premium rice. This will demonstrate to the Malaysian market the good quality of Philippines’ hybrid rice.
Malaysia presently imports around 35 percent of its rice supply largely from Thailand.
“When we were invited by Thailand to taste tests of our best rice varieties that included Thailand’s two best rice varieties, our Dona Maria came out to be top choices,” said Malabanan.
“We even have an advantage because ours is hybrid which has a higher yield.”
Malaysia’s rice production continues to be dominated by inbreds even if hybrid rice has already been introduced there by China’s rice producers. The Chinese hybrid rice, though, has not been successfully planted in Malaysia as the hybrid rice was suited for temperate climate.
The Malaysian government has been seeking to raise self sufficiency in rice production amid its limited rice area.
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