11 August 2018
Published also in Business Mirror

ONE of Middle East’s most popular supermarket chains is now importing farm products and other commodities from the Philippines, and is targeting to procure at least $100 million from local producers by 2020.

May Exports Philippines Inc. officially launched its operations on Wednesday, and will serve as the new center for sourcing, storing, packaging and exporting agricultural and commodity goods to the more than 150 supermarkets of Lulu Group International. The firm is registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), and has initially invested $1 million for its facility in the Calamba Premiere International Park.

“At present, [May Exports’s] initial investments is $1 million for this facility only. But they are allocating $10 million to $20 million a year in buying food and all Philippine products they will distribute in their chain of supermarkets,” Peza Director General Charito B. Plaza said in an interview with reporters.

Moreover, the firm is planning to acquire hectares of land, most probably in Mindanao, to develop an agricultural-industrial economic zone (eco zone). May Exports, Plaza added, plans to utilize the land as a plantation that will supply their export output of farm products.

“For now, they start with buying, and then, in fact, they are also looking out the possibility of leasing thousands of hectares to really grow their crops. We are helping them look for agricultural-industrial eco zones or halal hubs and production zones,” Plaza said.

As a locator, May Exports is qualified to avail itself of tax incentives, including income-tax holiday, 5-percent gross income earned, duty-free importation and zero value-added tax in procuring local goods, Plaza said.

In a separate interview, Lulu Group Chairman Yusuff Ali MA said his firm is looking to expand operations in the Philippines over the next two years. Part of his plans is to bring the popular Middle East supermarket chain to the archipelago, as well as accelerate its import bill to $100 million by 2020.

“This year, we hope to [import] $25 million and, within two years, we will reach $100 million,” Ali said. He also shared Lulu Group is determined to invest another $100 million for the entry of its supermarket to the country and the development of an agricultural-industrial ecozone.

“At present, we are thinking to invest $100 million. We [will] earmark $100 million, then further we will increase,” Ali added.

May Exports currently employs 22 workers for its logistics operations. Lulu Supermarkets have a global workforce of more than 46,000 people, of which 5,200 are reportedly overseas Filipino workers.