Preserving a taste, protecting a heritage – this is how the rice growers of Ifugao want the heirloom rice production to be recognized.
Tinawon, one of the heirloom rice varieties thriving in the Cordillera region, is creating a niche market in the global world. What makes it special? Aside from being planted in a world heritage site, this kind of rice is being planted through organic means which adds to its value and quality as an export commodity. Due to its exquisite aroma, distinct taste, and unique texture, the Tinawon rice is yearly exported to the United States where demand is constantly rising.
In 2011, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) supported the Tinawon production project under its Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program. It aims to increase the production of Tinawon as well as to supplement the export volume in order to sustain the needs of the farmers. Through the project, farmers were taught on using bio-organic and foliar fertilizers, early transplanting, and proper distancing.
According to Dr. Catherine Buenaventura, supervising agriculturist of Ifugao’s Provincial Agriculture Environment and Natural Resources Office (PAENRO), “these interventions led to a five percent increase in the production of Tinawon rice during the first cycle.” As for the project development, she furthered that the procurement of facilities such as thresher and other equipment for the processing of by-products such as rice coffee and rice wine will be needed.
Led and managed by Mr. Jimmy Lingayo, the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative (RTFC) serves as a ready market for the harvest and production of Tinawon. It is composed of farmer-members from Banaue, Hingyon, Hungduan, Mayoyao, Asipulo, Aguinaldo, and Kiangan in the province of Ifugao. In 2006, RTFC became a registered cooperative through the Cooperative Development Authority and became a certified organic rice producer through the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) in 2011.
Last year, the cooperative was able to export 11 tons of heirloom rice to US, a significant increase from the 2006 export volume of Tinawon amounting to 3 tons. The facility also started to cater to the local market in 2009 where up to the present, 4 tons have already been supplied. Currently, a kilogram of Tinawon rice is priced at P100.
The RTFC houses the Tinawon rice export facility. It also serves as a venue for activities such as marketing of heirloom rice, selling of heirloom rice seeds, rice hulling and milling, heirloom rice gifts and souvenirs, processing of coffee and banana, micro-finance loan, and other rental activities. ### (Anne Camille Brion)