SL Agritech eyes Gulf for hybrid rice exports


Hybrid rice producer SL Agritech Corp. hopes to corner a bigger market share in the Gulf states such as Jordan and Kuwait after its Doña Maria rice varieties got certified as Halal food.

The company’s premium rice varieties just received a Halal certification from the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines Inc. (IDCP), making it the first and – so far – the only Halal rice in the country, SL Agritech Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong said.

“Halal is a certification of food safety production and is also a requirement of importing countries. So we’re looking forward to exporting a bigger volume to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries,” said Lim.

A sample volume of Doña Maria rice will be shipped SL Agritech to Jordan and Kuwait, within the first half of the year.

The company has taken a strategic step to set up an export division.

“Our new export division has appointed two export managers – one handling the United States and Middle East, the other handling Europe, South East Asia, and other countries,” said Liza Guinto, SL Agritech vice president for export.

The company intends to take advantage of opportunities in the global market that has been growing since the Philippines started exporting premium quality rice in 2013, when the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) lifted the export ban on fancy rice.

The ban on regular milled rice is still in place.

“It is in Jasponica and Miponica Doña Maria rice that we have the competitive edge in the global market. Otherwise, we’ll find it hard to compete with the low-priced rice of Thailand, Vietnam, and India,” Guinto noted.

GCC states, some of world’s fastest growing economies, formulate similar regulation on various sectors – including agriculture – and have plans to form a single market, covering Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

SL Agritech has been shipping out three containers before the Halal certification.

“Now, as of just this March, we already exported seven containers to Dubai. We have so far exported already two containers this year to Saudi, Guinto noted.

There was zero export to Saudi in the past, she said. The importers were native to the GCC states, and the market consists of Muslim communities and OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).

Domestically, Halal rice varieties are also being distributed more intensively to Muslim communities.

The Muslim community constitutes among world’s biggest population at 1.7 billion or 22 percent, making it the second largest religious group. The community often requires Halal food safety and religious rites certification.

From OFWs, the rice brands have been receiving warm acceptance.

“Even if it’s a bit higher in price, our OFWs are very patriotic in patronizing our rice products once they get to know it’s a product of the Philippines and once they get to taste the product,” Guinto said.


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