Gov. Alejandro García Padilla announced Tuesday the start of the sale of locally harvested rice marking the first time in three decades that Puerto Rico promotes the product commercially. It will be sold under the “Del País” institutional brand.
The government threw its support behind harvesting rice about three years ago, when some 63 acres of land in a 500-acre farm in Lajas were blanketed with a crop of rice plants. The project grew to cover about 1,400 acres of rice, of which about 40,000 pounds will be sold at 63 Econo Supermarkets stores islandwide, García-Padilla said.
Initially, the rice will be sold in bulk, at $1.79 a pound, allowing customers to weigh and bag the amount they want to buy. Sometime soon, the rice will be available in 1- or 2-pound packages.
To be able to commercialize the sale of the “Del País” rice, there had to be several initiatives and transformations to get the project off the ground. He mentioned rescuing farmlands that were being used as illegal dumps and the revitalization of irrigation systems remained that were inoperative. Similarly, he said drainage channels were reconditioned as well as several irrigation lines that are now used by dozens of farmers.
“During the project, appropriate technology and suitable crops for saline soils were used to show that respectable production levels were achievable,” García-Padilla said.
For the past two years, the harvested “Del País” rice has been assigned to public school cafeterias, heading the list of locally harvested products served to students, which now represent about 60 percent of the menu, he said. That is a 35 percent increase during the current four-year term, when considering that the proportion was 25 percent in 2012, he added.