Project begins organic certification process for pilot areas

Project begins organic certification process for pilot areas

The buzz in the market is all about going organic with local products. On May 8, Vicky attended the Luzon Consultation on the Proposed Organic Agriculture Bills at the Agricultural Training Institute, Diliman, Quezon City.  Although this is the policy side of organic certification, it is very important that the issues of small producing farmers be represented.

Why go organic? The heirloom rice of the terraces has historically been grown naturally—without chemical fertilizers or inorganic pesticides. But RICE Inc believes that in order to fully help the farmers develop a quality product for the market, it should also be organically certified!

On January 27, 2009, after two years of gathering information and working out logistics for this initiative, a contract was signed with the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) to begin the process on a pilot basis. The organic certification application fee, which covers the costs associated with vertifying that the production meets organic statandards, came from the grant that RICE, Inc won during the Panibagong Paraan 2008 grant competition. The Peace and Equity Foundation is the funder of the grant to RICE, Inc.

The pilot areas will cover about 10 hectares of terraces within the three participating provinces, with at least one village per selected municipalities. Through this process, the first groups of traditional rice producers will become certified. The heirloom rice varieties are the Ulikan Red of Lubuagan, Unoy of Pasil, Ginulot of Mt Province and Tinawon of Ifugao.

The documentation process is very comprehensive, but considering all the information we have gathered from farmers in the field and at workshops, we passed the OCCP documentation review with flying colors. Examples of the information included the selection of quality seeds, documentation of the traditional farming system, location of farmers and size of area/plot, yield projection per harvest basis and the farming calendar.

OCCP will contract with an independent inspector to visit the pilot areas and audit the farmer activities from land preparation to harvest to processing. Those first inspections will begin on May 18, 2009 in Mountain Province.

OCCP is very excited about the inclusion of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project into the certification process. Ms Leilani Limpin, Board Secretary and OCCP Coordinator, said that the heirloom rice will be the first official application from the CAR region. Coffee and other high value crops are still in the application planning phase. She commented that RICE Inc is very serious about providing the best market for the heirloom rice, not only internationally but also locally. They recognize that it is also very important to create a following for this rice in the country of origin!