A Philippines-developed hybrid rice has captured 20 percent of Bangladesh’s hybrid rice market share, contributing to this developing country’s non-importation of rice in 2013.

SL-8H Rice

Since the initial production of seeds in 2006, SL-8H seeds now occupy a significant share in Bangladesh’s hybrid rice seed supply, surpassing performance of imported seeds from China and India.

“SL-8 is popular in Bangladesh. It is grown in hectares and hectares in Monipur Village, district of Jessore where some farmers who are dealers of the seeds have already become rich,” said Anwar Faruque, Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture additional secretary.

Faruque and a team of Bangladesh seed experts just visited last February 4 and 5 the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos.

The commercialization of hybrid rice in itself took off in the Philippines in the last decade when the government, as part of Ginintuang Masaganang Ani or GMA, adopted hybrid rice as a flagship program.

It was part of a rice self sufficiency aim at a time when the country’s rice production was just at the 11 to12 million metric tons (MT) level. The 2013 production was 18.03 million MT.

With SL-8H’s contribution, Bangladesh will stop rice importation this year.

“The good news is we have 160 million population, and the land is decreasing. But we are self-sufficient in rice this year. We used to import half a million tons a year. This year, we won’t import,” said Faruque.

The hybrid rice sector in Bangladesh may be small compared to its 34 million MT yearly rice production.

Its hybrid rice area as of 2012 was only around 600,000 hectares out of nearly 10 million hectares of rice area. At 10 MT per hectare yield, hybrid rice production totaled to 600 million MT, 18 percent of rice production.

Yet this is more than enough to wipe out the 500,000 MT yearly rice importation.

Even diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Bangladesh is being strengthened by this Philippine rice brand. This is because an estimated 300,000 farmers is benefiting from the Philippine rice brand.

However, what is impressive to Agriculture authorities of Bangladesh is not only the superior trait of SL-8H but the humanitarian terms for which it obtained the contract to plant the Filipino seed brand.

Although Bangladesh is nearer to India, being right north-east to it, or even China, it is only from the Philippines that it obtained this unique seed production scheme.

“This is the only hybrid seed produced 100 percent in Bangladesh. Other companies import their seeds. We have a very good agreement with SL Agritech Corp.(SLAC). They provide all the technical support through Dr. (Weijun) Xu and Philippine scientists,” said Faruque.

The contract was between the government-owned Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corp. (BADC) and SLAC.

“The Philippines allowed us to grow the seed in Bangladesh under SL Agritech’s technical assistance. That is a mode suitable for the local growth of our hybrid rice,” said Faruque.

Bangladesh uses 60 hybrid rice varieties of which 50 are from China; three from India; four from the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute; and three from the private sector of which one is from the Philippines, SL-8H.

The success of Bangladesh, still a poverty-stricken country, can be attributed to how its government agencies aggressively promoted hybrid rice to its farmers for their own livelihood benefit.

“We now have a farmer, Ferdous, who receives lots of media personnel going to him interviewing him about his lifestyle. He’s now rich. He used to plant inbred rice. Some of our farmers were not so interested in cultivating rice. But after seeing SL-8, they have all become interested.

Average yield of SL is 11 tons. Some even get 12 tons or more,” said Nuruzzaman, BADC director.

Philippine rice Bangladesh performance

SL-8H performs exceptionally under Bangladesh soil condition, hitting an average yield of 11 MT per hectare.

“Its productivity is higher by at least 20 percent than any variety. Its life cycle is short, and grain quality is good than other hybrid rice. It’s easy to grow. No need to use more fertilizer or irrigation and the cooking quality is very good, said MD. Nuruzzaman, BADC director.

“Its taste is better than any other variety. It can tolerate some environmental stresses and salinity of up to four ds (desiSiemens per meter).”

Bangladesh rice sector

Bangladesh has more than three times the Philippines’ rice area of three million hectares. It has 4.7 million hectares of irrigated rice land and 5.2 million hectares of rainfed.

It was ahead over the Philippines by at least two years in hybrid rice adoption, having started a government program in 1999. It started by importing the seeds from China.

“It took us seven to eight years to develop the mindset of farmers that hybrid rice is beneficial for them—that they will get at least three tons higher production per hectare,” said Faruque.

The Philippines though– which is among Asia’s pioneer in hybrid rice commercialization along with China and India— is importing up to 200,000 MT of rice this year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Hybrid seed area

Bangladesh started in seed production with only 22 hectares. Early on, it was encouraged by the stunning growth of seed yield as the 22 hectares generated 49 MT of seeds. That exceeded by five MT its target yield of only two MT per hectare on the first year. The following year, it produced 69 MT from 30 hectares. In 2011, its seed production was on 450 hectares, generating 900 MT.

This year, the government’s program is to plant seed on 700 hectares, expecting to harvest 1,500 MT of seeds.

Given that seed production of 1,500 MT, Bangladesh will have met only 15 percent of seed demand of 10,000 MT per year.

With seed expansion, SL-8H may benefit more Bangladeshi farmers.

“SL’s share is increasing, others’ are declining (because) we get quality seeds from SL at reasonable price. There are more than 35 companies that are producing and importing seeds. BADC is the only public corporation which is producing locally (with SLAC),” said Faruque.

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For any questions, please call Ms. Joh Dungca, 0917-558-6508; to request for interview with Mr. Henry Lim, 0916266-6604