Rice is the national staple.
It has been for generations even long before the Spanish colonial period.
But rice-growing is not sustainable in certain parts of the country.
Soil am water quality factors affect productivity and yield.
Nutritional limits also pose downsides to rice production in certain areas.
With thousands of Filipinos struggling to feed their families amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, the government is looking for ways to introduce a new substitute for rice to help make more parts of the country hunger-free.
Thus, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said the government is pushing for the planting of adlai or adlay, a gluten-free grain, to ensure food security and fight against hunger and poverty.
"We will push for the planting of adlai in the Caraga region as part of the residents' staple food and as a source of livelihood for farmers, indigenous peoples, rebel returnees as well as those located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas to ensure we have food security and to continue the fight against hunger and poverty,” Nograles said in a statement.
Nograles, chair of the Zero Hunger Task Force, described adlai as a “great potential” to be a key food and livelihood source for the region.
"Adlai is more nutritious than corn and brown and white rice. Its propagation is appropriate for upland and highland areas in Mindanao where there is a higher incidence of poverty and hunger," he said.
He said his office is closely coordinating with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for assistance in propagating adlai and in allocating additional funds to buy seedlings that will be distributed to farmers and other beneficiaries in Caraga and in other areas in Mindanao.
Citing the DA, Nograles said adlai is ideal for inter-cropping with other plants and does not need additional water irrigation because it can survive in slope areas and can depend on moisture from rainfall.
Adlai, he said, also has several nutritional benefits because it is a nutritionally and energy-dense food that provides perfect energy boost and is also a good source of protein.
He adlai is high in dietary fiber that assists healthy probiotic bacteria in the gut, removes bad cholesterol and high in calcium which ensures good bones and teeth, aids in nerve transmission, blood clotting and muscular function.
Currently, he said the grain variety is already popular in Bukidnon and many areas in Region 10, and is starting to pick up in Region 11.
Like corn and other rice varieties, adlai is a type of long-stemmed crop that grows in tropical areas in Southeast and South Asia.
It is also known as Chinese Pearl Barley or Jobs’ Tears because of its tear-like shaped grains. In the Philippines, cracked Adlay grains are more commonly found because of the milling processes typical for the country.
By virtue of Executive Order 101, the IATF on Zero Hunger is tasked to ensure that government policies, initiatives, and projects on attaining zero hunger will be “coordinated, responsive, and effective”.
Member-agencies of the task force are departments of Social Welfare, Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, Budget, Education, Environment, Health, Labor, Local Government, Trade, and Science; Presidential Communications Operations Office; National Economic and Development Authority; and Commission on Higher Education.