Global recognition for Vietnamese rice strain

SGI

Ho Quang Cua is an agricultural engineer based in Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta Region in the South of Vietnam where he has been working diligently for more than two decades with his team of associates to develop a strain of rice that now has been recognized as the “World’s Best Rice”.

Mr. Cua and ST25 rice.

Mr. Cua and ST25 rice.

Cua and his team presented this rice variety at a competition in Manila in the Philippines, that was held between 11-13 November 2019, for recognizing the world’s best quality of rice.

Cua named this rice strain ST25, and by winning first prize at the competition in the Philippines, he proved that he and his teams hard work and efforts over the years has now firmly placed Vietnamese rice among the best in the global market.

Saigon Investment interviewed engineer Ho Quang Cua (photo) about his difficult journey in achieving recognition for the rice species he developed and coded as ST25.

JOURNALIST: - You must have lost a lot of sleep and skipped many meals before you were able to see the final results after developing the rice strain you named ST25?

Mr. HO QUANG CUA: - Our research group, comprising of me and my associates Dr. Tran Tan Phuong and engineer Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, had a shared wish and desire to introduce Vietnamese rice in the world market as among the best. We wanted to produce a kind of fragrant rice that met with global standards and for that we did intensive research on social trends and finally came to the conclusion that we could not mix the existing strains of rice that were growing in southern Vietnam. We then decided to use genes from the Muoi Com rice in the North of Vietnam to produce another new strain, which is why this particular ST25 rice variety is of a special distinctive flavor and new characteristics.

It was without doubt a very difficult and challenging journey to achieve this final successful result. ST25 is a variety of ST, and way back in 1992 we came up with the idea of developing this strain. However, our efforts faced many pitfalls due to technical setbacks. It became more challenging in 1997 when Thailand announced their success in mixing two strains of fragrant rice to produce another fast growing and high yield variety. Their achievement pushed us to work even harder, and we kept asking ourselves why we could not do what they have achieved. Then we decided to set up a team of researchers in Soc Trang Province and from 2002 until 2004 we did a lot of research and development experiments to produce an excellent strain of rice.

In 2008, we could produce only two new varieties and experimented on them until 2014, and by 2016 they were showing good results. In 2017 and 2018, the rice variety we called ST24 repeatedly won prizes at Rice Festivals in Vietnam, and in 2019, the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) selected our two strains ST24 and ST25 for presentation at the 11th World Best Rice Competition in Manila in the Philippines from 11-13 November 2019, and the judges unanimously selected our rice variety coded ST25 for the first prize.

- What are the strengths of ST25?

- The ST25 variety is able to adapt to current difficult conditions in climate change. It is perfectly capable of fighting any diseases, especially pyricularia oryzae and xanthomonas campestris pv Oryzae Dowson. It is also highly capable of growing well in areas with brackish water and on coastal farms. The tall and hardy stems of this rice strain can withstand strong winds and does not easily fall or flatten on the ground. This is why this variety can grow well not just in the Mekong Delta area but also in the North, in the Highlands and the Central regions of Vietnam.

We have been setting up a process for producing 100% organic ST25 rice to make it not only fragrant and delicious, but also safe and healthy for consumers. The ST25 grains are white, long and almost transparent. When cooked, the rice smells nice, and tastes a little dry, sticky but delicious, showing all great properties of a high quality variety of rice.

Having achieved world-recognized results, we are trying to work with all competent agencies to spread this rice strain among all interested farmers. Also, we will build our brand in an effort to raise income for farmers and businesses, and establish a good reputation for Vietnamese rice.

- The ST25 rice variety is now selling like hot cakes, causing a tidal wave of counterfeit varieties to come up as well, which makes it extremely hard for consumers to choose and differentiate from the genuine produce?

- There is such an increasing demand for the ST25 organic rice variety that supplies have been running out. Customers know that this quality is very good and its price of just VND 27,000 per kilo is worth every penny. Several domestic and international businesses have asked us to sign contracts, and some have placed orders to meet the sudden market demand.

Some consumers have called us to complain that they unknowingly bought counterfeit produce, and as a result cooked rice is not as good as we had described. Some markets and online dealers are advertising counterfeit rice as the genuine ST25 rice variety, which is selling in different kinds of bags and at different prices. One company has even used our image of receiving the rice prize to advertise their fake produce and sell it at a higher price.

We have completed the necessary procedures to register our produce, but the lengthy process of formalities has delayed the certification of copyright of our new produce. As a result, some businesses have taken advantage of this setback and are selling similar looking produce as the original ST25 rice variety.

We have invested in many ways to identify our brand as distinct from other counterfeit products, such as by bag designs and our own logo for genuine ST25 rice variety, so the consumers can find the right authentic produce. However, we have a limited supply of ST25 rice variety that is officially sold through our distributors only and customers should reach out to our distributors to buy the genuine product.

- Thank you very much.

Translated by Nguyễn Gia

Dinh Du (Interviewer)

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