An airtight, reusable plastic bag that protects stored rice from moisture, pests, and rats, and keeps rice seeds viable, is now available to Filipino farmers in almost 200 retail stores nationwide.
IRRI Super Bags reduce losses incurred after harvest that usually stem from poor storage conditions - helping prevent physical postharvest losses that can be around 15%. On top of these losses, farmers also experience loss in quality.
Developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)'s postharvest experts in collaboration with GrainPro Inc., the IRRI Super Bag is meant for small-scale rice farmers to protect the viability and quality of rice stored in their homes.
The IRRI Super Bag is manufactured by GrainPro Inc. and is marketed as SuperGrainbag™. IRRI, through its national partnerships, has verified the benefits of the IRRI Super Bag with tens of thousands of farmers throughout Asia, but acknowledges it is a challenge to bring the bags to millions of farmers in a commercial way.
Philippine farmer Manuel Luzentales Jr. has always wondered how to deal with rats and weevils gnawing their way into his paddy (unmilled rice) stored in ordinary sacks in his house.
After attending a seminar in a nearby town introducing the IRRI Super Bags to farmers in the Philippine Bicol region, he decided to test them.
"Before, a 7-month storage caused my rice grains to break from moisture and pest infestations," Luzentales recalls. "I tested the IRRI Super Bags on my harvest for the second planting season of 2010. After keeping my harvest in the IRRI Super Bags for 10 months, the seeds were 100% viable, and none were wasted."
Engr. Martin Gummert, head of the IRRI postharvest unit, said that the rolling out of economically viable rice postharvest technologies in the Philippines and Southeast Asia involves partners in the public and private sectors. "The IRRI Super Bag is one of the technologies in the front line of this effort," he explains.
For this purpose, IRRI has initiated and is facilitating national Postharvest Learning Alliances that embrace public and private stakeholders who have an interest in and mandate to establish local supply chains for technologies. Through this Postharvest Learning Alliance, IRRI is assisting in setting up and training local distributors for technologies such as the IRRI Super Bag.
"The rollout of the IRRI Super Bag would have been difficult without the help of the Philippines Postharvest Learning Alliance," explains Engr. Gummert. "These alliances allow cross-sector actors to share information, foster learning, and better address a range of technical and market support needs."
IRRI has established national Postharvest Learning Alliances in Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The IRRI Super Bag works by blocking the flow of both oxygen and water vapor from the outside to the grain. When the bag is properly sealed, farmers can safely store their seeds for 9 months without reducing germination rates. IRRI Super Bags also keep away insects and rats without using chemicals and improve the percentage of whole rice grains recovered after milling by around 10%.
Tom de Bruin, GrainPro's president and CEO, said that a national retail network with close to 200 outlets will be involved to enable availability of the bags to farmers. "The SuperGrainbag™ is already selling widely used in three continents and is used for storage in an array of other commodities."
In the Philippines, the key partners are Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)and other Postharvest Learning Alliance members,Catholic Relief Services with its local NGO partners, and the Department of Agriculture's regional offices in Agusan, Bicol, and Bohol provinces. Other members are local government units in the three provinces, farmer cooperatives, and other NGO partners.
This work is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)-funded Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).
The Super Bags can be bought in Pacifica Agrivet branches nationwide.