With the growing demand for japonica rice in the Philippines, imports fill out the gap. With the opportunities seen, efforts to adapt popular foreign rice varieties to the Philippine setting were considered a sound investment. Though economies of scale may not be achieved, a shorter value chain and the price premium for specialty rice may motivate the players and producers in the market to grow it locally. Successful deployment of varieties in the country goes beyond its laboratory and field tests. Given that japonica rice is considered to be a specialty rice in the country, the involvement of the value chain in this effort is crucial as they will be the actors who will bring such into the baskets of the consumers.
Filipino’s tastes and preferences towards food have become more diverse in recent years. Though American, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and Middle Eastern cuisines have long been on the plates and baskets of consumers, Korean cuisine has only been recently popular.
This popularity, fueled by Korean pop culture and media, has been also manifesting in the economy, evidenced by mushrooming Korean convenience stores and restaurants offering Samgyeopsal all over the country. In fact, in a four-year measurement, the number of Korean restaurants grew by 81.2% in 2018 according to the Korean Food Promotion Institute.
This trend and development were seen to be a potential and an opportunity to influence demand on one of the major components of their cuisine -japonica rice. Japonica rice has been present in the country even before the popularity of Korea in the media and market. The fondness of Filipinos towards Japanese cuisine was already expected as both cultures have a particular love for rice.
Among Filipino, Japanese, and Korean meals, rice has been an integral part, if not the center of every meal. The demand growth possibility and the premium that japonica rice commands translate to a market potential on the supply side which may benefit local farmers in the Philippines. In the country, the area planted with japonica rice production is small which translates to a lower local supply in the market.
With the growing demand for japonica rice, imports fill out the gap. With the opportunities seen, efforts to adapt popular foreign rice varieties to the Philippine setting were considered a sound investment. Though economies of scale may not be achieved, a shorter value chain and the price premium for specialty rice may motivate the players and producers in the market to grow it locally.
Activities have been done to develop a variety suitable for the conditions of the country.
Breeders at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and South Korea’s Rural Development Authority (RDA), through the Grain Utilization Value Added (GUVA) have developed the following cultivars adapted to the Philippines: MS11 (NSIC170 SR), Japonica 1 (NSIC Rc220 SR), Japonica 2 (NSIC Rc242 SR), Japonica 6 (NSIC Rc484 SR), Japonica 7 (NSIC 2019 Rc584 SR), and Cordillera 4 (NSIC 2019 Rc566 SR SR).
Successful deployment of varieties in the country goes beyond its laboratory and field tests. Given that japonica rice is considered to be a specialty rice in the country, the involvement of the value chain in this effort is crucial as they will be the actors who will bring such into the baskets of the consumers.
In new product development, once the internal research and development have been done, in this case, the breeding process, external validation through market testing is necessary. Determining the target market’s acceptability of the new variety is necessary through product testing. This simulates the reaction of potential users of the product itself, in a real-world setting.
Market testing provides an opportunity to identify and iterate prototypes and products. This also serves as input for further go-to-market strategies. With this, various studies among the market players have been conducted from both the farmer and consumer sides
In general, those who tested the product saw differences in physical attributes of size (too small), shape (too round), stickiness (less sticky), aroma (less aromatic), and color (darker), in reference to the japonica they currently use. Though most of these differences can be attributed to breeding, some particular challenges, namely size, and shape, can be attributed to post-harvest handling and processing particularly when rice is being milled during production.
This has been validated by common spontaneous mentions of broken grains. As one of the initial concerns of the breeders, the vulnerability of the GUVA Japonica grains when milled is high which may lead to smaller and more broken grains. Hence, the value chain may require proper information, segregation, and better treatment to ensure the shape and size are still of quality when they reach the consumers. This additional awareness and caution applied during the process may reduce the avoidable damages and deformities.
For plant breeders, it is good to take note that japonica rice can be bred to local varieties in the country. Though, further breeding programs can focus on targeting rice close to the physical attributes of japonica rice Filipinos are accustomed to.
Those who commercially use japonica rice are already accustomed to using such, hence they do notice differences immediately. The opportunity of offering these locally cultivated japonica rice at a price lower than the competition is present as well. With a shorter and more contained value chain, resulting value-added costs may also be lesser which may translate to a more affordable japonica for the end-users.
Though, this is still subject to future research considering that factors such as economies of scale might interfere with and challenge the assumptions. For marketers who will deploy the GUVA Japonica Variety, there is an opportunity of using positioning and advertising to make the variety more acceptable regardless of the ratings it received.
The GUVA Japonica Variety can be positioned as a smaller and rounder rice which can be seen to be easier to use given its size and shape. Such can be capitalized as a competitive advantage compared to the current japonica in the market. On this note, it can command a more premium price as well. Lastly, being a locally produced variety can be an advantage taken as well. Being the only locally bred rice in the market, the rising affinity of Filipinos towards buy-local products partnered with the Filipino-first mentality may provide further success towards making it more marketable and acceptable among consumers.
These implications and recommendations can be considered to activate the demand and create ripples benefiting the producers and every actor in the value chain involved in cultivating GUVA Japonica Variety.
Read the study:
de Guzman RS, Cabardo JJ, Park DS, and Su JP (2023) The acceptability of locally adapted japonica rice variety in the Philippine Market: A product market test approach. Journal of the Korean Society of International Agriculture Vol.35 No.1 pp.18-30
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