Living a healthy life is a matter of choice. While some people choose to be healthy, others take on the bigger responsibility to help others live a healthy life.
In the rice industry, there are people who took on the challenge to bring healthier rice options to more Filipinos’ tables.
Rice options to curb malnutrition
Upon learning that 3 of 10 children are malnourished and 7 of 10 women are iron-deficient, Racky Doctor found a way to use rice, the staple food of Filipinos, to help curb the rising cases of malnutrition. He advocated for the use of rice-based products through the company he started in 2013 – the Nutridense Food Manufacturing Corporation based in Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan.
He started by writing a letter of intent expressing his desire to be involved in the fight against malnutrition. The DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) wasted no time in helping him adopt their technologies, which were the rice mongo blend and rice mongo curls, now branded as RIMO blend and RIMO curls.
But marketing the products was a bit more challenging. Racky began approaching other government agencies to introduce and promote them. However, he was turned down because aside from their being unfamiliar, there was the tedium of bureaucracy and the lack of a platform through which these offices could communicate and collaborate.
He continued to lobby for the RIMO products and as luck would have it, then Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force, Karlo Nograles, brought government agencies together to work on a single platform, the Zero Hunger Task Force.
Zero Hunger distributed functions to government agencies, and DA-PhilRice was tapped to produce raw ingredients, well-milled rice, brown rice, and mungbeans, among other materials.
What particularly began with DOST-FNRI grew to last, and now, Nutridense has adapted 26 of the institute’s technologies as weapons against malnutrition.
Doctor plans to expand Nutridense’s range of products as most have been complementary foods.
Cheap and healthier rice for all
Making brown rice available was not the lone goal of the Bohol Rice Processing Complex (RPC) – it was also making it accessible to all to promote better health among consumers. Thus, unlike most RPCs, they sell brown rice for a price cheaper than white.
They have been strong advocates of the Be RICEponsible Campaign in promoting affordable brown rice way back in 2016, when they offered it for only P37/kg against around P80 in malls.
“The choice to offer brown rice at that price was not that easy. It was between making a huge margin or getting just enough to also help ordinary consumers afford healthier rice,” recalled Dr. Hazel Antonio, director of the Be RICEponsible campaign in 2016.
Another challenge for them was sourcing the right paddy rice to use for their brown rice supply. They needed to ensure that they were offering premium-quality rice despite the low price, so they had to use first-class varieties that also commanded higher price.
“While it was hard to offer at that price even the white rice, Mr. Alvin Mante, the Manager of Bohol RPC then wanted to support the promotion of healthier rice so he worked closely with DA-PhilRice and National Food Authority (NFA) with little benefit to them. So to achieve the goal of P37, we had to support their marketing through the help of NFA retail stores,” Antonio added.
The present manager, Marie Francis Cubal, also recognizes the importance of making brown rice and other unpolished pigmented rice more available and affordable to the public. Hence, despite the challenges brought about by the typhoon Odette to their operations, they continue to produce unpolished rice, though at a higher price given the inflation rates.
“People need to be healthier now more than ever, so we had to find ways to at least keep ourselves going even on a smaller scale because many depend on us for rice that is healthy and safe.” Cubal said.