SL Agritech starts US rice exports (Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines – Hybrid rice and seeds producer SL Agritech Corp. began exporting to Los Angeles, New York and Micronesia in partnership with US-based entities.

The company said the shipments indicate a growing interest among overseas Filipino workers and other customers looking for high quality rice.

Exported to Los Angeles were 20 metric tons with Triple A acting as the consolidator.

The shipment to New York comprised eight MT, the consolidator for which was United Food of Asia Ltd., while the shipment to Micronesia totaled two MT.

SL Agritech manufactures the Dona Maria brand of premium brown and white rice. It likewise grows planting lines of high-yielding hybrid rice seeds both in the Philippines and overseas.

For several years now, it has been exporting to OFW-dense countries such as the Middle East.

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“It inspires us that when OFWs learn that rice comes from the Philippines, they become interested to buy it,” said Dona Lim, assistant vice president for operations of SL Agritech.

While the new shipments indicate growth of the country’s agricultural staple export, Lim said SL Agritech believes a strong marketing support from Philippine economic growth advocates would make more nationalities aware that the country is a rice exporter.

“Thailand and Vietnam are really the ones more known when it comes to rice export. It’s been two decades since OFWs have stayed abroad, but some of them still need to know that we export high-quality rice,” Lim said.

A known bottleneck to global awareness regarding Philippines’ rice is the fact that Thailand and Vietnam rice have lower production costs.On top of this, their governments subsidize their rice farmers.

The Philippines can still hardly compete price-wise due to higher production costs, although initial government efforts have been successful in producing rice at lower cost.

“The quality and superiority of our rice is not the same as Vietnam’s. But Vietnam rice is only sold for around $1 per kilo compared to $1.8 per kilo for the Philippine rice,” Lim said.

SL Agritech is eyeing to export to other Asian and Middle Eastern markets such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia China and Indonesia.

Philippine premium rice gained footing in the international market when the Department of Agriculture allowed in 2013 the export of premium quality rice through a special export permit.

The DA facilitated the shipment of various Filipino rice brands of an initial 35 MT to Dubai, 15 MT to Kuwait and Hong Kong, and 11.55 MT to Germany, Hong Kong, Macau, Canada, and the Netherlands.

The government has banned for decades the export of ordinary rice in light of Philippines’ still net rice import status.