For the couple behind the country's first state-of-the-art rice center in Leyte, there is no need for rice imports, just support for farmers

A ‘rice revolution’ is happening in Leyte five years after Yolanda

May 29, 2019

It has been five years since tropical cyclone Yolanda hit Leyte leaving its people homeless and its lands ravaged. Many developments have since been put up but its residents are still reeling from the effects of this natural calamity.

One of the most hard-hit industries in the region is farming. But even prior to Yolanda, agriculture has been marred with many issues, leaving farmers at a compromise. All over the country, the same problems plague every Filipino farmer: lack of arable lands and infrastructures, support from the government, and to add to that, the fact that our country is hit by at least 20 typhoons every year.

But despite all these, many still believe that our farming industry is capable. One of these firm believers is couple Patrick Renucci and Rachel Renucci-Tan, who’s behind the country’s first most technologically-advanced rice center in Leyte.

The duo who used to run one of France’s largest printing companies gave a sneak peek of the Renucci Rice Processing Center which boasts of 32-meter-high silos that stores dried palay, among many other modern apparatus.

Access to capital

In their area in Alangalang, Leyte the same problems persist but the Renuccis said in an interview with the Inquirer that it has nothing to do with the amount of land available to farmers.

What they believe are needed most in this sector is low-interest capital that will give them access to high-quality seeds and fertilizers which will result in bigger yield enough to sustain domestic demand.

Their debt trap is also a major culprit as they sell whatever farming inputs they can amass just to be able to pay back their debt to usurious traders who also provide the farming inputs,” Renucci-Tan told Inquirer.

Higher yield = no need to import

By working closely with farmers in Leyte, the couple saw the potential of a “rice revolution” not just within the locality but also throughout the country. They said that rice growers given the proper support they need can produce up to two times more than the current Department of Agriculture palay output of just four metric tons a hectare.

If sustained, Renucci-Tan said we can rival the rice produce of Thailand and Vietnman and pretty soon we’ll be rice sufficient again. Even at the current rate their partner farmers are doing, she said we won’t need to import rice at all. We just need to mobilize a third of the roughly six million rice farmers across the country.

Aid to productivity

With the opening of the Renucci Rice Processing Center, the aim according to the couple is to maximize the productive output of rice farmers by properly and efficiently processing it, from cleaning up to packaging.

Renucci-Tan even walked Inquirer through the processes the palay has to go through at the plant.
The first stage is precleaning the wet palay before drying. This involves removing dirt, stones, grass, pests, and other impurities. Clean palay is then electronically weighed as part of the drying system to ensure scientifically precise moisture extraction.

The next step is a traditional way farmers have been employing for years much to the ire of motorists who pass by the drying mats on the road. But with the Renucci plan everything is done within the compound but still with the aid of the sun because “drying the palay under the sun keeps moisture and pests trapped in the grains,” Renucci-Tan explained.

Dried palay is then stored in chilled, fully aerated and temperature controlled wet bins and silos.
She furthered explained that from the first step to the last, the process takes place in a single control room to minimize production errors. This way they could also maximize the yield and in the process, the farmers’ income.

This October, the couple’s project in cooperation with the Filipino-owned Chen Yi Agventures will be fully operational.

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