Manila: The Philippines is conducting tests on several varieties of Basmati rice to determine which type would best suit conditions in the country.
The long grain and aromatic cereal is widely grown in India and Pakistan is much favoured for its high production yield and hardiness, the Philippines is trying to choose the type that would provide the highest quality and production with a view of adapting it for local production and future export.
Just last week, the Department of Agriculture said that Secretary Proceso Alcala approved the proposal of DA national rice program coordinator Assistant Secretary Dante Delima to conduct regional evaluation and on-farm production trials of three Basmati rice varieties nationwide.
In a memorandum to Secretary Alcala, Delima said: "We were informed that we have three outstanding Basmati rice varieties, two introduced and one bred locally, that have undergone adaptability trials at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), in Nueva Ecija."
Under Alcala's directive, Department of Agriculture rice programme technical adviser Dr. Santiago Obien shall try out the varieties of Basmati 370, 385 and CLS-1 initially tested at CLSU and PhilRice.
"These varieties have yields ranging from 3.5 to 5 tons per hectare, which are quite high under tropical conditions when compared to those grown in India and Pakistan, home of the Basmati rice varieties," Delima said.
"With its aroma and excellent eating quality, Basmati has a very good potential for domestic production. Farmers in Iloilo and Bicol have reported harvests of from 90 to 120 cavans per hectare," he added.
Although a largely agricultural country, the Philippines is not yet at this point a rice exporter like its neighbours in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and Thailand. The agriculture department hopes that the large scale adaptation of Basmati as a crop will help the country realise the government's dream of finally becoming a rice exporter.
Even while the Philippines is yet to fully evaluate the Basmati varieties, the government is already setting its sights on exporting production of the cereal abroad, particularly to the Middle East.
"We have talked to Qatar and Kuwait and they are willing to accept Basmati rice that we will plant," Alcala said.
Last March 25, 2012, the Philippines and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar forged an agreement on agriculture and fisheries.
programme is in keeping with agriculture and fisheries agreements forged between.
According to Delima, Basmati rice also has vast export potential because it is preferred in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Basmati rice fetches higher than ordinary rice in international markets, averaging $1,000 per metric ton, as of April 2012.