President Rody Duterte, who grew up in the corn-eating region of the country, will launch on December 22 in Davao City a new staple, the Rice and Corn Mix or RICO, which would not only be a healthier option for grains eaters but also ensure that the country would not need to depend on other countries anymore for its food supply.
President Duterte and Senator Manny Pacquiao will also lead endorsers who will promote the eating of corn and the rice-corn mix not only because it is more affordable but also because it is low-glycemic and rich in beta-carotene.
Other prominent personalities like tycoon Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala will also be requested to endorse the new staple mix to demolish the perception that Corn or Rice-Corn Mix is a “low-class” staple which only the poor should eat.
Last year, I asked the head of the PhilMaize Foundation, Roger Navarro, the Corn Cluster Group of the DA and the Bureau of Agriculture Research to work on the formulation of a Rice and Corn Mix which would be acceptable to the consumers.
On Thursday, Nov. 23, PhilMaize President Roger Navarro and the Corn Cluster Group presented to the DA Secretary the result of their research efforts which included the National Food Authority (NFA) – packets of Corn and Rice-Corn Mix – during the Corn Farmers Congress at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
It was agreed that the product could now be launched as the Corn Farmers are ready to produce it for the market.
While Corn is actually more nutritious than rice with very Low Glycemic content and high in Beta Carotene, it is not very well accepted in a society which is very concerned with “status symbol” since it has been labeled as the “Poor Man’s Rice.”
Wth the increasing number of Filipinos afflicted with Diabetes, health conscious people have started looking at both the White and Yellow Corn as options.
In fact, the Beta Carotene gene in yellow corn was “imported” and introduced into rice to produce the “Golden Rice,” a genetically modified rice variety specifically bred to give consumers more Beta Carotene.
The new products, which would be sold in 2-kilo packs, will come in choices of 100% Corn, 75% Corn-25% Rice; 50%-50% Rice-Corn Mix and 25% Corn-75% Rice.
Only the Low-Glycemic White Corn and non-GMO Yellow Corn varieties will be included in the program to allay fears of consumers on the use of BT corn.
The vacuum-packed bags, which will carry instructions on how to cook the corn and Rice-Corn Mix, will be initially sold in outlets of the National Food Authority (NFA) and in supermarkets in the big cities.
A Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Agriculture, the National Food Authority, the PhilMaize Foundation and representatives of supermarkets like Abreeza, SM, Robinsons, Rustans, PureGold and others.
Under this MoA, the DA will finance PhilMaize so it could produce the RICO Staple while the NFA will help in the marketing by offering it for sale through its outlets in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
The Supermarkets will also be tapped as outlets of the RICO Mix.
This is an improvement on previous efforts to promote the eating of corn which did not take into account the availability of the supply in the market.
Agriculture Undersecretary for Agribusiness and Marketing Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has been named as Focal Person of the RICO Project.
The country is expected to post record harvests in both rice and corn this year with rice production estimated at 19.4-million metric tons and corn production to hit about 9-million metric tons.
With the country nearing rice sufficiency with only a few thousand metric tons in supply shortfall, the acceptance of the Rice-Corn Mix could be the formula in achieving Staple Food Sufficiency in the country.
(Photos by Angelica Laurilla, DA OSEC and Alan Jay Jacalan, DA-AFID)