Rice Revolution | The Manila Times



RACHEL RENUCCI-TAN Co-founder, Chen Yi Agventures

RACHEL RENUCCI-TANCo-Founder, Chen Yi Agventures

“We saw that the opportunity to develop a sustainable rice business is huge in Leyte as Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ left the province without post-harvest facilities such as rice mills, mechanical dryers and warehouses”

Rachel Marjorie Renucci-Tan and her husband Patrick François Renucci led glamorous lives in Paris where they were based. She founded a real estate investment fund management company based in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London, and was engaged in advising, restructuring and managing assets worth over $1 billion. Americans. Patrick, meanwhile, owned and ran one of the largest printing works in France.

As Typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record, ripped through the central Philippines in November 2013, the Renucci couple sipped champagne in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower. The news of Yolanda’s devastation shocked them.

Both enthusiastic entrepreneurs, the couple knew it was time to give back. Not in Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai or London, but in Leyte, where poor and indebted farmers emerged desperate from the ravages of Typhoon Yolanda; in the Philippines where Filipinos who depend on rice as their staple food consume rice laden with parasites and pesticides.

In an act of faith and love for each other, they closed their apartments in Paris, London and Hong Kong, and arrived permanently in the Philippines in 2015.

They ended up in Leyte, one of the main rice producing provinces of the country. It is the second most productive in the Visayas and before Typhoon Yolanda hit it was the fifth largest rice producing area in the Philippines.

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The couple saw that the opportunity to develop a sustainable rice business is huge in Leyte as Typhoon Yolanda left the province without post-harvest facilities such as rice mills, mechanical dryers and warehouses.

In Alangalang, Leyte, they established Chen Yi Agventures Inc. (CYAI), the country’s first sustainable and fully integrated rice processing company. The company produces, among other things, the Renucci brand rice and the award-winning Dalisay rice. Renucci-Tan explained that “Chen” is another name for her maiden name “Tan,” while “Yi” means “100 million” in Mandarin.

Renucci-Tan oversees marketing and finance, while Patrick, who was born on the Côte d’Azur and has over 20 years’ experience in operating and managing large factories in the French printing industry , has become a rice expert, focusing on technology and operations.

“We decided to invest our savings in building the most technologically advanced rice processing complex in the Southeast. We also devoted their resources to the mechanization of the province for the first time, hiring transplanters, laser graders, tractors and combines to farmers, to increase their production,” Renucci-Tan told the Manila Times. “From the start, we wanted a company that keeps giving. It’s not just about making money, it’s about empowering others.”

They started with local seedlings and helped farmers with production techniques to maximize the harvest. CYAI has used Japanese technology to improve the drying, grinding, polishing and bagging processes.

Then-president Rodrigo Duterte, who led the inauguration of Renucci’s rice processing complex in 2019, said, “What you do brings you closer to beauty and to God.

They also set up the Renucci Partnership Program which provides farmers with low-interest in-kind loans – consisting of high-yielding seeds, fertilizers and pest control solutions. This was instrumental in the development of a high-tech agricultural protocol that allowed farmers to increase their productivity from 2.5 metric tons per hectare to 8 metric tons. A technical academy was also established to teach farmers new high-tech farming systems.

Farmers repay their loans by selling the crop to CYAI at the prevailing market rate. About 4,000 farmers and their families have already benefited from the Renucci Partnership Program and the related Renucci Paddy Purchase Program. “In this latest program, CYAI buys paddy directly from farmers, eliminating layers of middle people, thereby increasing farmers’ incomes,” Renucci-Tan explained.

The couple see farmers as key partners and players in the rice business to improve their lives and free them from the cycle of debt and poverty. They help farmers increase harvests from 60 bags of rice per hectare to 150 bags per hectare through the use of better seeds, greater mechanization and superior planting technology.

“We hope that our rice revolution will be replicated across the country and that one day soon the Philippines will be self-sufficient and even export rice,” Renucci-Tan said. The Philippines currently imports 3 million tons of rice per year.

“We are very pleased with the new government led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for its clear and unwavering commitment to the agricultural industry, particularly with the goal of ensuring food security,” Renucci-Tan said.

A last-minute entry to the World Rice Conference in Makati in November 2019, Renucci Rice was named the third best in the world, beating 27 other varieties in appearance, texture, moisture, aroma and flavor. grain length.

“It gives us a lot of hope because we’ve had a lot of challenges with the way things are,” Renucci-Tan said.

CYAI is also diversifying into the production of natural fertilizers. Patrick says the biggest problem in farming is the lack of fertilizer. The Philippines imports 95 percent of the agricultural sector’s fertilizer needs.

“Tests show that our local, eco-friendly fertilizer is cheaper and just as good as the more expensive chemical fertilizer,” Patrick said.

When they first met in 2004, Patrick saw in Rachel “a smart, amazing woman working in London” who took the train to Paris on a blind date.

Born in Makati and raised in Forbes Park, Rachel Marjorie is the eldest of two daughters. His maternal grandfather, Ching Ban Lee, was the country’s taipan pioneer and founder of the Ching Ban Yek conglomerate, where the Philippine Blooming Mills steel mill, La Suerte Cigar & Cigarette Factory, licensed to sell Philip Morris and Marlboro, came from. Blenda Margarine, Baguio Oil and Insurance Pioneer.

From Fujian, China, Ban Lee emigrated to the Philippines at age 18. He sold vegetable oil, soap, flour and textiles on a bicycle around Binondo. He invented a cooking oil formula, sold cooking oil in plastic bags, and turned Baguio oil into today’s leading cooking oil.

Rachel’s mother, Rita Ching Tan, the Philippines’ foremost expert in Chinese porcelain, is the daughter of industrialist Ching Ban Lee.

Rachel’s father, Edward Tan, a Ching brother-in-law, started his own media company. “Atlas Promotions and Marketing was the largest local advertising agency in a field dominated by multinationals,” says Renucci-Tan. From Edward came Baguio Oil’s iconic “Order ni Misis” slogan.

Edward invented “block timing” and made money during broadcast hours, Renucci-Tan says. He imported titles from TV shows like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Little House on the Prairie,” and invested in and managed ABC’s Channel 5.

From dad Eduardo, Renucci-Tan learned to live life to the fullest and accept risk without fear. “My dad was very hard on me. I had to work hard and work for the money. When I graduated, all funding was cut off.

She taught philosophy for a year at the University of the Philippines. Without a driver or car, she traveled by bus to Diliman, Quezon City from Makati. “I paid for everything – my food, my transport. My salary was 4,000 pesos a month.”

She also worked at ABC Channel 5 in Novaliches; did some networking and reverse block sync by selling slots to providers. She increased her sales by 300%. She was later promoted to program manager but did not get a raise.

Renucci-Tan quit after three years and started Maximedia, an entertainment company that produced shows and concerts. At the height of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, she sold her business and opted to earn her master’s degree in business administration from INSEAD (“European Institute of Business Administration”) in France.

Renucci-Tan considers Hong Kong real estate tycoon Vincent Lo Shui On, a friend of her late father, as her mentor. “He had a huge impact on my life,” she says. It was Uncle Vincent who told Renucci-Tan to start his own business.

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