A newly-granted Halal certification to Philippine brand Dona Maria rice opens up market potential in Gulf countries Jordan and Kuwait.

Dona Maria rice has become Philippines’ first only Halal-certified rice. It’s opening up markets in Persian Gulf countries as Kuwait and is fast expanding distribution in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Dona Maria rice has become Philippines’ first only Halal-certified rice. It’s opening up markets in Persian Gulf countries as Kuwait and is fast expanding distribution in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

The premium rice varieties just received a Halal certification from the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines Inc (IDCP).  The IDCP certification made the Dona Maria rice the first and so far the only Halal rice in the country.

Sample volume of the Dona Maria rice will be shipped out by producer SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC) within the first half of the year to Jordan and Kuwait, according to SLAC Chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong.

“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.

The aromatic Jasponica, a mix of Thailand’s special Jasmine rice and Japan’s premium Japonica and Miponica, a sticky type of rice ideal for the Japanese sushi, will be positioned as among world’s best rice varieties.

SLAC has just taken a strategic step to put up an export division.

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

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

The country retains the ban on regular milled rice.

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

GCC states, some of world’s fastest growing economies due to oil’s presence, formulate similar regulation on various sectors including agriculture and have plans to form a single market.  GCC states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. There are discussions on GCC membership of Jordan.

Already, even without the Halal certification yet, Dona Maria premium rice has already doubled its export volume to other GCC territories Dubai and Saudi Arabia in the last two years.

“We just shipped out three containers per year before.  Now, as of just this March, we already exported seven containers to Dubai.  We so far exported already two containers this year to Saudi.  We had zero export to Saudi before,” said Guinto.

The importers are native businesses to the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states.  Thus, the  market will come from a combination of Muslim communities and OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).

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

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

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

“Even if it’s a little 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,” said Guinto.

SLAC is strengthening participation in international trade fairs and exhibitions through which it has been able to tap export markets. It does receive assistance from government through subsidy in such trade fairs.  The company continues to anticipate aid from government’s agricultural and trade attaché offices globally in this effort which will advance welfare of farmers planting rice.

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