Rice producer in talks with First Pacific

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BusinessWorld | 21 March 2013

HYBRID RICE producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) plans to establish a 2,000-3,000 hectare commercial rice plantation in Iloilo this year, a top company official said yesterday, in what could involve a joint venture with Hong Kong-based conglomerate First Pacific Co. Ltd.

"We have identified a site somewhere in Iloilo, but we are still trying to finalize it," SLAC President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Lim Bon Liong told reporters on the sidelines of the media launch in Quezon City of the First National Hybrid Rice Congress in Quezon that will be held on April 3-5.

He said in a telephone interview later that the venture will add 2,000-3,000 hectares to the company's current total of 3,400 hectares in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Laguna and Pangasinan.

Mr. Lim declined to say how much rice the company expects to produce from the plantation, saying only that the output "will be used for domestic supply because we want to support the government's self-sufficiency program."

Another company official said talks are under way for a partnership with First Pacific on this project.

Asked for comment, Melody M. Del Rosario, vice-president for Corporate Communication of First Pacific unit Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), said via text yesterday that "First Pacific is the one directly involved" and that talks being held are still "preliminary."

"A joint study is being done on rice production with SL Agritech as a seed supplier," Ms. Del Rosario said after which she declined to give more details.

The government is currently implementing its Food Staple Sufficiency Program, which aims to gradually reduce rice imports by increasing local production.

This year, the country will import 187,000 metric tons of rice to be used as buffer stock, 62.6% less than last year's 500,000 MT.

Rice production target for this year is 20.04 million MT, 11.15% more than last year's actual production of 18.03 million MT.

Incorporated in 2000, SLAC - whose products include hybrid rice seeds, rice products, insecticide and fertilizer - plans to conduct an initial public offering this year to raise P2 billion-P 3 billion to finance expansion of its hybrid rice production.

First Pacific is the parent of local firms Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Philex Mining Corp. and MPIC where the Hong Kong- based conglomerate has 25.6%, 31.2% and 55.9% stakes, respectively.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a minority stake in BusinessWorld.
Original source: Business World
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