According to local sources, The Philippines Agriculture Department (DA), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Phil Rice), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Rice Genebank of IRRI and several non-government organizations are going to launch a project which will promote and preserve the ancient rice varieties which they have inherited from their ancestors and that grow in the northern Cordillera region.
The project aims at developing health benefits among the Filipino rice consumers about these rice varieties as they are grown organically. It also aims at exploring other such kind of rice varieties and reviving the extinct ones.
According to the Research Assistant Director of the DA, there were about 300 rice varieties grown in in the Cordillera region comprising of Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, and the Mountain province using pre-hispanic tradition, but only 14 varieties found in Kalinga and Apayao, and 16 in the Mountain province (3 of which are known to be extinct) are said to be identified and documented so far.
A survey report of 2009 survey said that the farmers in the Cordillera region are giving up the plantation of indigenous varieties for foreign varieties which provide higher yield in shorter period of time and are also adaptable to the weather conditions in the Cordillera region.
The Head of Heirloom at the IRRI said that it’s an issue of great concern as if this practice continues it will result to loss of bio-diversity that dictates the Cordillera Mountain’s agricultural cropping patterns, loss of watershed, and deterioration of highland farming that has enhanced tourism attraction in the north.He started working on this concern in the year 2004 and his efforts were appreciated by local and national government agencies, including public and private institutions.
Although these rice varieties are organically prepared and hence beneficial for health but they are pretty expensive and are not affordable by all consumers, say retailers.