By James Konstantin Galvez Reporter
SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC), the country’s biggest hybrid rice seed producer, is expanding its distribution network through franchising.
In a statement, SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said that the company is initially targeting to establish this year some 50 stores for Doña Maria premium rice varieties, including SL-7H (Jasponica) and SL-9H (Miponica).
“People think Doña Maria rice is expensive. But we’re trying to make it affordable for everybody. We’re bringing it down to poor people. From our three to four kiosks, we will expand it [rice stores]to reach 50 by the end of the year,” he said.
Lim added that the expansion aligns with the goal of the Department of Agriculture to open special rice varieties to Filipinos, who deserve to consume export-quality fancy rice such as its nutritious anti-diabetic brown rice.
While the initial stores may be company-owned, Lim said that franchises are planned to step up distribution, which should encourage the emergence of rice-based entrepreneurs.
Dante Delima, DA assistant secretary and National Rice Program coordinator, earlier said that the government will extensively market locally produced fancy rice, even as the Philippines imports a significant amount of fancy rice.
“Our specialty rice is not only for foreigners but for locals that can afford it. We will release fancy rice to supermarkets this year,” he added.
Consumption of brown rice and other colored rice is being promoted by DA since these are more nutritious. Their iron content is intact, and has other vitamins and minerals owing to the absence of refining regular rice goes through. Brown rice is anti-diabetic with its sugar slowly being released into the blood from the grain’s color coatings.
The Doña Maria rice comes in two forms—uncooked and cooked. It is also available in both brown and white, Lim said.
For the uncooked, SLAC has come up with 300-gram sachet packs of the premium rice, both white and brown, which sells at only P25 to P30 per pack through SLAC’s kiosks or small cart stores. The sachet may be consumed in three to four cups at an average of 80 grams per cup.
These rice sachets called may also be distributed to sari-sari (variety) store at the barangay (village) level through a distribution partner.
For the cooked rice, SLAC is selling the Doña Maria Rice Surprise (DMRS) trademark through its carts with six ready-to-eat variants contained in handy, ready-to-go paper bowls. The rice toppings are priced between P45 and P60 per bowl.
“Taxi drivers, street sweepers are lining up for this rice topping. It’s a type of rice people like because just a bit of bagoong [fish or shrimp paste]or patis [fish sauce]is already enough to fill you. That really fits our tagline ‘Kanin pa lang ulam na’ [rice alone tastes like viand],” Lim said.
The toppings’ variants are well-loved by Filipinos—Bicol Express, Binagoongan, Lo Ma (Chinese-style adobo), Korean Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki and Binagoongan.
Lim said that the company expects to have 1,000 franchise stores within five years.
The company is in the process of listing with the Philippine Stock Exchange to raise some P2 billion in expansion fund.
“Doña Maria already has a name. If we have additional funding, maybe we could move this premium rice more to the market,” he said.
“For some time now, SLAC has been testing DMRS in the market through its pilot carts in Pasong Tamo, Makati and Sterling Place in Ortigas Center,” he added.
SLAC, also the country’s hybrid rice research and development pioneer, is the only fully integrated rice company in the Philippines engaged in seed production, distribution and commercial rice production, milling, packaging and marketing.
DMRS will also be extensively marketed in the form of cooked rice snack Filipinos love including arroz caldo (porridge or congee with chicken) and champorado (chocolate-flavored rice soup).
The brown rice also comes in the cooked form ginataang mais (rice soup with coconut juice and grated corn). The company is also developing rice pao in two forms—steamed and fried with asado filling.