DAVAO CITY — Fifteen years after setting up shop here with a four-hectare post-harvest facility for small farmers, the Mindanao Agri Network Corporation (MANCOR) is finally breaking into the national market with its organic brown rice.
MANCOR’s Sun Made brand, launched in 2010, was initially available only in local supermarkets.
“When we started in 2010, we were available only in Gaisano Mall Davao, NCCC, and Park and Shop of Victoria Plaza. We started from zero to where we are now,”Sun Made Vice-President Carlo C. Lorenzana said in an interview.
Nowadays, MANCOR is distributing to Metro Manila branches of Rustan’s, Shopwise, Robinsons, and SM, as well as some specialty stores and restaurants serving organic food.
Mr. Lorenzana said the growing health-conscious market has given them an opportunity to expand and they are aiming to capture a bigger share of that consumer segment.
“There are bigger brands in Manila that are endorsed by the likes of (television personality) Kris Aquino. As a young company, we’re hoping that maybe in the coming years we’ll have celebrities from Mindanao like President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte to endorse our brown rice,” he said.
MANCOR, he said, is ready to meet demand with brown rice production currently at 100 tons a year, sourced directly from farmers.
Mr. Lorenzana said they buy the rice from the farmers at a premium price to encourage them to continue with organic farming.
“And for them to continue selling to us, we have also to cover all those things that we don’t want to compromise — the quality and the sourcing, which is from Mindanao. We’re into social enterprise,” he said.
Mancor also practices a mill-to-table approach to maintain quality.
“Whenever they have an order, that’s the time we mill, freshly milled. We also don’t mix (with low quality grains), we are 100% premium brown rice,” said Mr. Lorenzana, adding that this partly accounts for the upscale price range of Sun Made.
Another factor that makes brown rice more expensive than white is that it cannot be sold in large quantities as in a 50-kilogram sack.
“You can’t pack it to a sack because it is prone to rice weevils since the nutrients are on the husk and those nutrients are attractive to weevils,” Mr. Lorenzana explained.
Part of MANCOR’s marketing program is educating consumers on how to cook brown rice “properly” and understanding the value of rice quality.
“Another test is educating people, especially those who had bad experience with brown rice,” he said, “Not all brown rice are the same, what matters is the palay (grain) used. And we use premium palay that comes from Mindanao,” Mr. Lorenzana said.