MANILA — Another Philippine organic rice variety has successfully penetrated the stringent yet lucrative US market following the delivery of one ton of the indigenous rice in November last year.
The Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Don Bosco MPC) based in M’lang, North Cotabato made the initial shipment and is now poised to send another 2 tons of its famed organic black rice to Los Angeles, California sometime in the first or second week of February.
Don Bosco MPC general manager Romano Laurilla said the group’s black rice is distributed in the US under the brand Social Products and is described as “an organic line of black and red rice from the Philippines grown by small co-op farmers in Mindanao, Philippines.”
Parceled in 1-pound and 5-pound packages, Don Bosco’s black rice are placed in specially-designed box in accordance with their US partner’s efforts to sell the organic cereal as a premium product.
According to Laurilla, the opportunity to export organic black rice – and possibly, also red and brown rice – came after he met Justin Garrido, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of the SocialProject.PH.
SocialProject.PH is a US-registered non-profit organization whose mission is to grow, develop and support social entrepreneurship as a sustainable means to poverty alleviation and nation building.
“Garrido, who was a managing director of a chain of stores in the US, came to the Philippines to look for local products that could be promoted in the United States. He got interested in our organically-produced rice,” Laurilla narrated.
“Our meeting here last year led to the setting of a marketing plan and the conceptualization of the packaging of the product so that it will be presented as a premium product,” he said.
“SocialProject.PH has opened a very bright prospect for Don Bosco MPC and local rice growers. Several restaurants in Los Angeles are already waiting for our products. If this continues, our organic rice could also be marketed in other parts of the US,” Laurilla said.
He added that if Don Bosco’s market in the US continues to expand, it would definitely bring economic development to Mindanao farmers.
Don Bosco MPC’s organic black, red and brown rice are grown in an area comprising more than 500 hectares in the towns of M’lang, Tulunan, Midsayap and President Roxas in North Cotabato and Surallah in South Cotabato.
Laurilla said that Don Bosco MPC organic rice has already reached markets in Dubai, Hong Kong, Germany and the Netherlands.
Don Bosco MPC has a certification from the Organic Certifying Center of the Philippines (OCCP).
It is the first co-op in the Philippines to receive international certification from the Certification of Environmental Standards (Ceres), a European-based certifying body.
It has also been certified by the National Organic program of the US Department of Agriculture.
Aside from being an export-winner, Don Bosco MPC is also a largely-recognized farmer group in the country – being awarded as the Best Small Farmer-Group in last year’s National Organic Agriculture Achievers’ Awards (NOAAA) by the DA which also gave them a P500,000 cash prize.
Don Bosco MPC was also cited as one of the most promising community-based enterprises at the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (SIPAG) Awards and also received P100,000.
At the Gawad Saka Search, Don Bosco MPC was recognized as the outstanding organic farmer group category regional winner and a national finalist.
The DA, thru the Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, has supported Don Bosco MPC in upgrading their equipment and technical capabilities and facilitated their participation in various trade fairs and exhibits for marketing support.