Source: Business World

10/07/2017 – A group of farmers from North Cotabato, who have received financial infusion from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Dubai, have started exporting organic colored rice to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), shipping out an initial 10 metric tons (MT) last June 30.

“There are many OFWs in Dubai who want to help the Filipino farmers back home and earn income in the process,” Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative General Manager Romano S. Laurilla said in an interview during the cargo send-off at the Davao port.

Don Bosco Cooperative, which started in 2006 and is now composed of 400 farmer-families, was a beneficiary of P22.4 million worth of interventions from the Department of Agriculture, including a double chamber vacuum packing machine, seed trading center, rice transplanter, seed cleaner and rice color sorter.

Then with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)-Dubai’s EntrePinoy Reintegration Programme launched in October 2016, the co-op has so far received P2.3 million in investments from OFWs who have “adopted” farms in North Cotabato.

The EntrePinoy Reintegration Program encourages OFWs to engage in socially-responsible business activities and investment opportunities.

“The OFWs agreed to finance the organic rice farms at P30,000 per hectare for production and marketing,” Mr. Laurilla said.

Ofelia B. Domingo, former labor attach to Dubai and now regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment in Zamboanga Peninsula, said under the adopt-a-farm concept, “OFWs invest P30,000 per hectare for a maximum of five hectares each with a 30% return on investment (ROI), or a guaranteed profit of P9,000 in a year.”

The OFWs are also urged to buy shares in EntrePinoy FZE, the marketing arm and sole product distributor of the Dubai EntrePinoy Reintegration Program, priced as 2,500 Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) per share for a maximum of five shares, with an ROI of 28%.

North Cotabato has a total production area of 500 hectares for the high-value organic black, red and brown rice, of which 150 hectares are covered by the program.


Last Friday’s shipment included 3.5 MT bound for Los Angeles, California.

The US export is through Don Bosco Cooperative’s partnership with Social Project.PH, a US-registered nonprofit organization that aims to develop and support social entrepreneurship as a sustainable means to alleviate poverty.

“We already started exporting colored organic rice to the US before the Dubai OFW program, right after I met Justin Garrido, a social entrepreneur and cofounder of Social Project.PH. Mr. Garrido, 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 US and he became interested in Don Bosco’s organic rice,” Mr. Laurilla narrated.

Social Project.PH has imported up to 2 MT of colored organic rice from the cooperative since 2014.


Mr. Laurilla said they have already exported more than 150 MT of their colored rice, under the Bios Dynamis brand, to more than 10 countries in previous years, but they are particularly excited about the UAE because they see it as a steady market.

“Our colored organic rice export to Dubai has a sure market. Our product was able to enter UAE and the US because we are halal-certified and organic-certified,” he added.

Don Bosco Cooperative has a certification from the Organic Certifying Center of the Philippines and from the National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture. It is also the first cooperative in the Philippines to receive an international certification from the Certification of Environmental Standards.

“One of the most important requirements they asked from us to start exporting is to have a third party certification,” he said.

Mr. Laurillo said they are preparing to increase production and expand their export markets by training more farmers who have applied to join the cooperative.

These new farmers are trained and assisted to shift into organic farming, but their produce will initially be just for the local market.

Mr. Laurillo explained that these new members fall under the “category of a farm converting to organic farming” and are only able to pass full certification after two years.