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Fertile Ground

Rice mill for Leyte farmers by French couple impresses PRRD

For this couple, the decision to leave their comfortable life in Paris and move to a town in Leyte have done more for them and the community. 

French national Patrick Renucci and his Filipino wife Rachel decided to move to Alang-Alang, Leyte in 2015. Patrick used to own one of the largest printing presses in France. Rachel on the other hand was a successful investment banker. 

But the intention to help the people in Leyte recover from the devastating typhoon Yolanda has always been on their minds and hearts.

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“We were living in Paris, we used to live a beautiful life, a comfortable life, then came typhoon Yolanda. And you know typhoon Yolanda is the biggest typhoon ever in the world. And all the media in the world put the image on TV and we were all shocked,” said Patrick.

Also adding, “We were so affected that my wife and I decided to move to Leyte to set up a sustainable business to help the people recover.”

Good intentions and good results

After studying their options, the Renuccis decided to invest their life savings in a sustainable rice production business that will in turn, help the livelihood of farmers in Leyte.

They started with providing low-interest loans and seeds at zero interest to farmers. They would then buy rice harvests at above-market prices.

“We discovered a well-kept secret that not many Filipino know: Leyte is the top rice-producing region in the country. So we said, ‘okay so much palay but not so many post-harvest facilities.’ Let’s invest our money here. Let’s put what we have in this province and at the same time help our farmers, at the same time bring technology to the Philippines and bring world-class rice to the Filipino people,” Rachel said. 

Four years later, the couple launched their project in one of Southeast Asia’s technologically advanced farmers’ harvests and incomes- Alang-Alang, Leyte. 

The facility features new technologies in drying, storing, and milling rice is expected to help significantly increase farmers’ harvest and incomes.

One big fan

President Rodrigo Duterte was impressed by the facility when he toured on Friday, July 5, 2019.

During the inauguration program, Duterte said that he wants to replicate the business model in other parts of the country.

“Really, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. And if we can work together, if you want to stay in the Philippines, and I said considering the amount that you have invested… I’m not that rich but I can give you another P1.5 billion to do your thing,” Duterte said. 

“We have the money. Not much, but we have the money, and we can replicate that in about… Well, I am putting him to task in Mindanao.”

The President offered Patrick a Filipino citizenship and showed his interest to appoint Patrick to his cabinet. 

“Ah, maybe I’ll try — experimental lang naman. If he becomes a naturalized citizen, then I think he is qualified to be a member of the Cabinet. Then I can maybe ask Sir Patrick that you may join us and help us because it’s really agriculture. Most of it is really the stomach of the  Filipino,” Duterte said.

Impress and inspire

The couple plans to help more farmers in the community and stay for good in Leyte. Especially now that the Department of Agriculture is easing the process of providing loans to rice farmers. 

“Paris is a beautiful city. Sometimes we have some regrets because we have beautiful restaurants [and] we used to have beautiful friends. In fact, we cannot compare. We are very happy here in the Philippines because of what we are doing,” Patrick said. 

“I’ve lived all over the world and it feels right coming home,” said Rachel.

Lastly, “To be able to achieve this while at the same time alleviating lives of Filipinos is a different kind of happiness, it’s incomparable.”

via ABS-CBN News / Pia Gutierrez

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