Specialty Rice

Grains of the famed Dinorado rice variety are grown in Arakan Valley, Cotabato in the Philippines. This aromatic rice is said to have its origins in the said region.

Specialty rice (SR) is a class of rice that is differentiated from the major classes of milled white rice and brown rice in terms of grain appearance, cooking, and eating qualities. SR is often known by other names such as heirloom, traditional, heritage, or indigenous rice. It encompasses more than 50,000 varieties of rice that are grown in the world today.

SR can be classified into three main types: aromatic, glutinous, and pigmented rice. Aromatic rice has a distinctive flavor and aroma that is often described as nutty, popcorn-like, or floral. Basmati and jasmine rice are two of the most popular varieties of aromatic rice. Glutinous rice, on the other hand, is characterized by its sticky and chewy texture. It is often used in desserts and sweets such as cakes and pudding. Lastly, pigmented rice gets its color from anthocyanin, a type of water-soluble pigment that is also found in blueberries and black grapes.

The SR market has been growing steadily in recent years driven by the health and wellness trend, as well as the increasing demand for rice with unique flavors and textures. In the Philippines, the production of SR is still at a nascent stage. The area planted to SR is only about 1% of the total rice area, and the production is less than 1% of the total rice production.

Project highlights

The DA-IRRI Partnership for Specialty Rice aimed to (1) map out the existing SR varieties in the country, (2) assess farmers' perception of quality and preference on grain quality attributes, (3) document traditional practices related to SR production and marketing, and (4) characterize local SR varieties for their unique quality traits.

Findings show that there are more than 200 SR varieties in the country. Farmers' preference for grain quality attributes was mostly associated with their perceptions of aroma, taste, and appearance.

Traditional practices included seed selection, storage, and pest management. Furthermore, local SR varieties were found to have unique quality traits such as high amylose and amylopectin contents, and low protein content.

Research was also conducted to explore the following:

    • Specialty Rice Data: Sources, Concepts, and Methods

    • Aromatic Rice

    • Glutinous Rice

    • Black Rice

    • Red Rice

    • Consumer and Institutional Preferences

    • Marketing Systems and Price Structures

    • Grain Quality and Health-Promoting Properties

    • Quality Matching of Specialty Rice Collected from Farmers with Consumer Preferences

    • Farmers' Perceptions and Socio-Cultural Practices

    • Ethnoryza Case Studies

    • Philippine Specialty Rice in the International Market: Current Status and Potentials

    • Comparative Grain Quality and Health-Promoting Properties of Specialty Rice Produced and Marketed Across Local and International Markets

The studies provide valuable information that can help policymakers, stakeholders, and rice producers and marketers in formulating programs and strategies for the development of the SR industry in the Philippines.

Ways Forward


    • Supply expansion: This includes increasing the seed supply, enhancing crop management, exploring and recommending area expansion, drying practices, organizing SR farmers, contract growing, and creating a database of farmers. Contract growers are those who are willing to produce SR varieties on behalf of seed companies or other organizations.

    • Demand development: A database of institutional buyers is being developed as part of the demand development strategy. In addition, culinary tourism, trade fairs, and vacuum-sealed packaging are also being promoted to develop the SR industry.

    • Value addition: New viable products are being developed that will source raw materials from local producers. These may include breakfast cereals, pasta, snacks, and desserts.

    • RD&E directions: Breeding, genetic resource preservation, and extension are the main RD&E activities being undertaken by the DA-IRRI Partnership.

    • Policy directions: The policy directions being pursued by the Partnership include the development of grain standards for SR, truthful labeling, and the promotion of the Geographical Indication (GI) system. An Organic Certification program is also being strengthened to support the SR industry. Furthermore, data collection on SR is being enhanced to support decision-making.


Aromatic rice

  • Ensuring the seed supply. PhilRice stations nearest existing and potential production areas should sustain and maintain production and commercialization. The NRP and the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Seed Program can also consider making certified seeds of this variety available in specific regions specializing in aromatic rice such as MIMAROPA.

  • Strengthening postharvest practices. This includes the adoption of best drying practices and use of appropriate dryers and storage facilities.

  • Widening the demand base and ensuring affordable prices. This includes an optimum mixture of aromatic and ordinary rice varieties. This blend of rice should come with truthful labeling for fair and transparent disclosure of rice quality. PhilRice, through its Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division (RCFSD), can assist in determining this optimum blend.

Glutinous rice

  • Ensuring the seed supply. PhilRice stations nearest existing and potential production areas should sustain and maintain production and commercialization. Farmers’ access to these seeds can be enhanced through the NextGen Project’s Participatory Variety Selection by demonstrating cultivation of glutinous varieties and giving seed starter kits in specific production areas

  • Expanding the production area. With better returns, farmers who just allocate a small portion of their area to glutinous rice may opt to venture on a bigger production scale.

  • Maintaining the purity of glutinous rice. Glutinous rice farmers must have access to dedicated postharvest facilities (e.g., dryer and rice mill) to avoid mixing with ordinary rice.

Pigmented rice

  • Exploring and enhancing the feasibility of organic pigmented rice production to acquire a premium price.

  • Providing support to existing and prospective organic black rice producers. This includes 1) training on the production of organic pesticides and fertilizers; and 2) development of simple machinery to lessen the huge labor requirements of producing such chemicals.

  • Increasing the demand for pigmented rice. Promoting pigmented rice as an artisanal product with the help of DOST and DTI.

  • Other value-adding opportunities:

    • Develop it as food supplements, taking into account its health-promoting characteristics;

    • Explore its use as a natural food colorant;

    • Cultivate it as an organic rice; and

    • Develop a geographic indication system.


  • Ensuring the seed supply. Seed multiplication of purified traditional SR varieties should be sustained through a community seed bank (CSB) and the PhilRice GeneBank. PhilRice, in collaboration with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), must conduct training on seed purification and m multiplication among SR farmer groups or cooperatives.

  • Crop management. Maintain traditional crop management practices that are still productive and use locally fabricated small machines (e.g., micro-tillers, panicle threshers) to enhance production.

  • Demand development and marketing strategy:

    • Develop an “artisanal” rice market to add premium to some SR varieties that are grown in a unique traditional way by the local people.

    • Incorporate SR as a vital component of culinary tourism to promote its consumption and consequently increase demand.

    • Explore rice branding to popularize the uniqueness of locally produced SR (e.g., Apayao aromatic rice).

    • Consider organic production of SR to add value.


  • Action plan for recommendation on how to invigorate the SR industry in terms of boosting production and improving marketing such as, seed system, technology interventions; market and product development;

  • Monograph or book on SR production and marketing in the Philippines; and

  • Business plan for glutinous rice production in the Philippines.

If the recommended action plan of the project will be implemented by DA the following benefits will be expected:

  • Increased farmers' incomes;

  • Availability of local SR in the local market;

  • Increased exports of pigmented rice; and

  • Reduction in the imports of glutinous rice.

Online Resources

DA - IRRI2016 - 2021