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by Rose De La Cruz
03-June-2007 The Philippine STAR

Since Jasponica rice was “soft launched” in the market two years ago by SL Agritech Corp., more and more Filipinos have developed an addiction for this long, grained, glutinous and aromatic local rice that Henry Lim Bon Liong crossed between the well-loved Thailand jasmine rice and Japanese rice.

The Thai jasmine rice is long-grained, thin, aromatic but not soft in texture while the Japanese rice is round, has soft texture and glutinous. Lim is considered the father of hybrid rice in the Philippines having brought this Chinese technology in the country to stave off the repeating rice supply shortages.

In fact when SL Agritech ran out of Jasponica rice supply last February because his rice fields in Laguna were destroyed by typhoon Milenyo last December, a lot of consumers lodged their complaints with the leading supermarkets. One woman even called the call center of Sterling Paper Corp., the holding company of the Lim family, to lodge her complaint about her children not wanting to eat any other rice in the market.

“I had to immediately plant the variety through subcontractors in other parts of Laguna, which currently gets water supply from the river. I had to subcontract production in 10,000 hectares,” Lim said.

Lim’s rice techno-farm in Laguna used to be assured of water supply from the river, until the dam broke because of Milenyo last year.

Luckily, Lim had the foresight to subcontract a certain portion of his seed production to other farmers in Nueva Ecija and other parts of Luzon.

Jasponica is a premium rice that is patronized by big hotels and restaurants (including a leading Japanese restaurant for use in its sushi bar) although it also has a growing following from consumers in the A, B and C markets.

“One thing is sure. Once you taste it, you will never find another kind of rice in the market that closely approximates its quality and price. And you might end up not buying any other kind of rice in the market,” Lim said.

Jasponica is sold in bags of two kilos (to be more affordable to more people); five kilos; 10 kilos and a sack of 25 kilos. A sack costs P955 (when sold at the Sterling head office in Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati) and sells up to P1,400 in the supermarkets.

Lim is proud of the fact that Jasponica is now becoming a very popular local brand and is reputed as the “best rice in the country, if not in the whole world.”

“Only recently, one of the biggest rice traders in Singapore bought Jasponica rice in the supermarket and tasted it. After that he went to my office offering to distribute my Jasponica rice in the whole world. But I refused for now because my production is not yet enough to meet the local requirements. Maybe in the future, when I produce more than enough, I will call on him,” Lim said.

Most Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese restaurants operating in the country sell Jasponica rice because it has better quality and cheaper than imported Thai jasmine rice and Japanese rice (which sell in the supermarkets for as high as P50 a kilo).

Lim’s brand name for his Jasponica rice is Doña Maria, who had been pushing Lim to get into agriculture prior to her death in a car crash several years ago. “This is how I want to perpetuate my mothers’ legacy,” Lim said.

Aside from supermarkets and groceries, SL Agritech wants to widen the market reach of Jasponica through dealerships (with minimum order volume of P10,000 worth of Jasponica rice).

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