• Vitarich enters fish fillet retail business


    Listed feeds maker Vitarich Corp. has entered the dory fish fillet retailing business, which is seen as a major contributor to the company’s revenues next year.

    Ricardo Manuel Sarmiento, Vitarich executive vice president and chief operating officer, said at the sidelines of the company’s launch of Cook’s Golden Dory that Vitarich sees the fish fillet retail business contributing “10 to 20 percent or more” to the company’s revenues starting next year.

    “Right now, in our food division, I’m open that it will contribute 10 or 20 percent of our sales. I’d like it to grow as fast as possible. It’s a good product. Yes, I would guess [it would grow its sales contribution]by next year,” Sarmiento said.

    Sarmieto said majority or 80 percent of the company’s revenues will still come from feeds and Cook’s chicken products, but sees a “potential” in the dory market.

    “We think dory will be a potential front line in terms of total revenues for the company. There is an opportunity, an export potential. We’re primarily still a feed company, but this is our first aqua product, our first food product,” Sarmiento said.

    “If the demand grows, we’re prepared to scale up. We’re hoping the demand would grow higher but right now, we wanted to introduce the product so that there is a healthier and fresher alternative to the imported fillet,” Sarmiento said.

    As of December last year, Vitarich’s revenue contributors were feeds at 62 percent; foods including chicken and dory, 33 percent; and farms, 5 percent.

    Sarmiento said Vitarich invested “10 percent of the company’s total resources” to enter the dory retailing business, with initial production capacity at 50 tons of dory meat per month.

    At present, Sarmiento said the Philippines is importing every month some 600 to 800 tons of dory meat from Vietnam.

    The company’s dory brand—Cook’s Golden Dory—is currently available at supermarkets such as Fisherfarm, Gaisano, Landmark and Rustans, at a suggested retail price of P220 per kilo. This is more expensive than the Vietnam dory priced at P140 to P160 per kilo.

    “Our golden dory is local. There’s no bleaching involved, no chemicals and additives. We offer it at premium because it’s fresher, natural, and we know where it came from and how it was raised,” he said.

    Sarmiento said that before going into retail, Vitarich has long been growing and selling wholesale dory fish since 2007, locally procuring the products via joint ventures with 12 dory growers in Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan.

    Vitarich also engaged in direct distribution of dory products to hotels and restaurants, mostly in Luzon. The dory products were sold in fillet, balls and rolls.

    Meanwhile, the Vitarich COO said the company is confident that it would finally exit from its court-assisted rehabilitation before year-end so it can pursue foreign partnerships and expansion plans.

    “September was the target. We had a little delay. But we’re very optimistic that we will be able to exit (rehabilitation) before the year ends,” Sarmiento said.

    In July, Vitarich’s board of directors filed an application with the Bulacan Regional Trial Court to allow the company an early exit from its rehabilitation program, which started in 2007 in line with its P3.2 billion debt restructuring program.

    The court-assisted rehabilitation was done to bring back the company’s foothold as a leading feed producer, and to clear all its debt and liabilities.

    Sarmiento said Vitarich would soon clear its debts after the sale of the company’s 13-hectare Marilao plant, valued at P610 million, to low-cost housing developer 8990 Holdings Inc.

    The settlement agreement between Vitarich and 8990 will slowly reduce Vitarich’s debt to give way to its expansion programs.

    “We still have P800 million in debt right now. [The Marilao plant sale] should reduce [the P800 million loan]significantly. Upon the completion of their payment, we should be pretty much almost out of debt,” Sarmiento said.

    The company’s debt would be reduced to P300 million from P3.2 billion in 2007, after the settlement of the P610 million sale of the Marilao facility and the P2.4 billion debt to equity investment of Kormasinc Inc.

    Kormasinc now holds 80 percent of Vitarich, while by the Sarmiento family holds some five percent interest. The remaining 15 percent is publicly owned.

    Established in 1950 and incorporated in 1962, Vitarich has interests in feeds and farm (Gromax Inc.) as well as chicken (Philippine’s Favorite Chicken Inc.) and dory for its food businesses. KRISTYN NIKA M. LAZO


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