LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA, THE PHILIPPINES — The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Tao Commodity Trader, Inc. (TCTI) partnered together to promote the commercialization and nationwide distribution of seeds of three IRRI-developed rice hybrids: Mestiso 71, Mestiso 77, and Mestiso 89. 

The seven-year limited exclusively commercial license agreement was formally signed by Peter Brothers, IRRI chief of staff and representing IRRI’s director-general, and Julio Sy, Jr., TCTI chief executive officer, on July 30 at IRRI’s headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna.

The selected hybrid rice varieties are bred for higher yield, superior grain quality, improved pest and disease resistance, resilience to climate change-induced stresses, and higher seed production, traits that could help farmers increase their yields and incomes by up to 20%. IRRI said hybrid rice technology has significant potential to improve rice productivity and contribute to a rice self-sufficient Philippines.

“As IRRI strives to achieve food and nutrition security, we always emphasize the importance of building strong partnerships with different organizations to achieve our mission,” Brothers said. “We cannot do it alone. Today is a significant day for IRRI as we enter into this new partnership with TCTI, an industry-respected and established group, that can help bring some of our innovations to our main clients — the countless farmers and consumers who depend on the rice sector for their food, nutrition, and livelihoods.”

The agreement was made possible through the IRRI-led Hybrid Rice Development Consortium (HRDC), which works to develop elite hybrids suited to different agro-climatic conditions. Seed companies can apply to become members of the HRDC. As members, seed companies are allowed wide, non-exclusive or limited-exclusive access to HRDC germplasm, with the end goal of accelerating the development and dissemination of new products to farmers.

Tao Corp., a trader of molasses in the country, decided to diversify into the rice seed market, with its subsidiary TCTI becoming a member of HRDC.

“This historic partnership between Tao Corp. and IRRI could not have come at a more opportune time when our rice farmers are facing very tough times due to challenges on several fronts — from climate change to unfavorable market conditions,” Sy said. “Through this joint undertaking with IRRI, we could extend much needed help to our rice farmers. This is a project that Tao Corp. undertakes with much pride and responsibility, and we are extremely honored to be IRRI’s partner in providing rice farmers a chance at a better tomorrow.”

 Under the agreement, TCTI will fully invest in scaled-up development, production, and distribution of seeds, as well as meeting seed sales objectives, for the three rice hybrids. TCTI will work with Aski Inc., a microfinance company with over 18,000 farmer-clients in the Philippines, to provide farmers with training, technologies, and financial services to help further spread the use of the selected rice hybrids’ seeds. As a member of the HRDC, TCTI also commits to contribute to the development of superior hybrid rice varieties.