Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr eyes partnership with IRRI for nutritious food development, production

2024 February 23

NUTRITIOUS AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with officials of the International Agricultural Research Center (CGIAR) and the International Rice Research Institute at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Friday (Feb. 23, 2025). Marcos said he is keen on forging partnership with the IRRI for the development and production of more nutritious agricultural products. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday expressed openness to collaborating with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the development and production of more nutritious agricultural products.

This was after the IRRI, in a meeting with Marcos at Malacañan Palace in Manila, offered to develop more varieties of rice and other agricultural produce for local consumption.

Marcos said he would take the IRRI’s offer which is vital in completing the nutritional requirements of every Filipino.

“I hope we can make use of that because those are the kinds of things that we need,” Marcos said in a meeting with officials of the IRRI and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), as quoted by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

“It’s beyond [the issue of] food and rice in Asian countries. So, again, that just brings into very sharp focus how important [rice] is to us. But the other side of it is the nutrition side because of course, we cannot eat just rice. So, there has to be a source of vegetable, and protein. So that’s why we are now trying to find the [solution],” he added.

CGIAR executive managing director Ismahane Elouafi told Marcos that the organization is willing to work with the Philippine government for the development of rice varieties that have additional nutritional components and other agricultural products such as corn, potatoes, chicken and vegetables.

Elouafi stressed that the IRRI has a lot of new technologies to ensure better productivity and nutrition of agricultural commodities.

“Now, we have iron-rich potatoes. If you eat the potatoes, it give[s] you about 50 percent of iron that you need per day. And anemia problem is a huge problem in the world particularly in women and kids. We have the same thing in maize (corn). We have the high protein, Vitamin A in rice, in maize, we have beans with iron and zinc, both of them,” Elouafi said.

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food secure future with a wealth of experience and knowledge spanning 50 years.

It has a global network of 15 research centers and works with over 3,000 partners in 89 countries worldwide.

On the other hand, the IRRI was established in 1960 during the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. under CGIAR.

Elouafi was accompanied by IRRI Board of Trustees chairperson Cao Duc Phat, interim director Ajay Kohil, and deputy director general for Strategy, Engagement and Impact Joanna Kane Potaka.

During the courtesy call, Marcos was briefed about the varieties of rice that the IRRI is rolling out to complement nutritional requirements.

Marcos hailed the IRRI for its development of a low glycemic index (GI), protein-enriched rice variety, saying it is aligned with his initiative of not only ensuring food sufficiency but making sure that food given to Filipinos are nutritious.

“It’s no longer just food sufficiency. There should be nutritional value given to the people. There’s very much that we could learn from (you). IRRI has been actually continuing the research and development and when we went, I could see some of their rice is made not for the Philippines alone, the varieties are going all over the world,” he said. 

Marcos also mentioned the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Walang Gutom 2027: Food Stamp Program” aimed at providing nutritious food to the poorest families.

The initiative is a flagship program of the Marcos administration to decrease the incidence of voluntary hunger experienced by low-income households.

Under the program, monetary-based assistance is provided through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that can be used in purchasing select food commodities from eligible partner merchant stores.

Marcos expressed hope that the IRRI will play a vital role to ensure the success of the food program.

“If you take six units of carbohydrates, you cannot take anymore. You have to take also protein and you have to take also legumes and vegetable so that it is balanced, especially to children. It’s very important. I hope it can be part in this (IRRI) program,” he said.

 Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)