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IFEX Philippines 2019: Premium exports, rising commodities continue to power PH growth

With “NXTFOOD Asia,” the 13th edition of the B2B exhibition looks to strengthen the reputation of Philippine products

Rethinking a business-to-business event on its 13th staging may sound like a difficult quandary, especially when its 2018 edition surpassed targets with over $256 million worth of export and domestic sales from 513 international and local exhibitors and with nearly 8,000 buyers and visitors from around the world attending the event.

But not so for the Department of Trade and Industry’s Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (DTI-CITEM), which doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge of turning a new leaf for the biggest B2B event in the country.

Led by executive director Pauline Suaco-Juan, the idea behind this year’s IFEX Philippines happening on May 24 to 26 at the World Trade Center is to celebrate everything that makes Philippine products prime export commodities—in the same vein as what Suaco-Juan has done with Manila FAME—while providing a platform for producers, growers, and farmers to access a market that may have been previously beyond their reach in a more immersive format that’s telling of the changes in the global landscape.

“For our upcoming edition, we aim to elevate participating companies to a strategic position where they can better leverage on the event’s exhibits, seminars, networking and business-matching activities, as well as take advantage of the Philippines’ proximity to other markets,” she says.

These are not empty words. IFEX Philippines 2019: NXTFOOD Asia isn’t merely a concept for the future but a reality for the present needs and demands Filipino products can command. Under Suaco-Juan’s direction, this year’s edition focuses on the country’s “Premium 7” products of coffee, cacao, coconut, mango, pineapple, banana, and tuna, transformed into delicious innovations in a showcase that encourages gastronomic encounters and cultural exchange.

CITEM executive director Pauline Suaco-Juan during the media preview

“There will be a gustatory fête of the country’s Premium 7 commodities, which have been leading Philippine food exports for the longest time,” says Suaco-Juan.

These food products have always provided exciting opportunities for the local market that’s constantly penetrating a wider demographic abroad. But as its rebranded name suggests, this year’s staging is implementing practical measures to herald the prospects and possibilities of the next wave of exports or “rising food stars,” which include heirloom rice, calamansi, ube, pili nut, turmeric, moringa or malunggay, muscovado sugar, tamarind, dalandan, and a slew of local wines and spirits. “Through this showcase of what’s next in Asian food, we want the global buyers to experience the Filipino food innovations that are being done with these commodities and see how they can use these products in the dishes in their respective countries,” she adds.

Now that IFEX Philippines has been injected with a youthful energy and adapted to make room for new tenets, the trade show is underpinned by projects that could produce the right results such as DTI’s new project that may well define the future trajectory of Philippine export commodities as well as provide the global exposure the entrepreneurs behind it deserve.

To help strengthen the country’s major export commodities, IFEX Philippines will launch the Rural Agro-Enterprise Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth (RAPID Growth) project, which is led by the DTI-Resource Generation and Management Service (RGMS) and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

But as its rebranded name suggests, this year’s staging is implementing practical measures to herald the prospects and possibilities of the next wave of exports or “rising food stars,” which include heirloom rice, calamansi, ube, pili nut, turmeric, moringa or malunggay, muscovado sugar, tamarind, dalandan, and a slew of local wines and spirits.

An upscaling of the successful Rural Microenterprise Promotion Programme (RuMEPP), RAPID Growth is a P3.7 billion project that aims to propel agriculture-based processing enterprises and entrepreneurial communities to become innovative, productive and competitive so that entrepreneurs will be prepared in meeting the challenges of the global market.

According to DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, RAPID Growth will primarily target four agricultural value chains, namely cocoa, coffee, processed fruits and nuts, and coconut.

“These four commodities have lucrative markets, social features and have the potential to provide sustained economic benefits to small farmers and enterprises,” Lopez said in a statement.

The project is set to target small farmers and micro-entrepreneurs engaged within the selected commodity chains, further targeting unemployed and underemployed rural women and men. Special focus will be on women, youth, and indigenous people. It is set to be initially implemented in six regions, which are Regions eight to 13 with 20 target provinces.

“In order to serve as models, four pilot provinces were chosen for each of the priority sectors from among the 20. These provinces are Leyte for its coco coir, Bukidnon for coffee, Davao del Norte for cacao and Agusan del Sur for calamansi,” Lopez explained.

One of the dishes created by Via Mare chef Bea Nitard using two of the country’s premium products of tuna and mango

The RAPID Growth Project was proposed to directly address policy commitments of the Philippine Government aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are of high relevance in eliminating poverty and reducing inequality.

Anchored on the government’s “Pagbabago” pillar, this project seeks to address the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 target outcomes, which are (1) expanding economic opportunities and (2) increasing access to economic opportunities, including smallholder farmers and fisher folks. Likewise, through this project, the DTI is set to prioritize the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as key pillars of its economic program.

“Various products that are harvested or manufactured by local MSMEs have a huge potential in the export market. The launch of this project in IFEX Philippines shall help shed a light on these products as it elevates the emerging local entrepreneurs and farmer groups,” Lopez added.

All these in place, the everyday consumers’ job now is to make sure that support is drummed up across all sectors of the industry—whether supporting farmers and fisher folk or investing in local fresh ingredients, processed food, or specialty products.

www.ifexphilippines.com

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