Philippine entrepreneurs are encouraged to export processed food products to tap into more and larger markets around the world and boost revenues, as they take advantage of some trade agreements involving the country.
Tisha Pia de la Rosa, chief of Macro-Economic Policy Division of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said they need to focus on the processing of primary agricultural and fishery products, and develop more food products to cater to the ever-evolving wants of the consuming public.
“Requirements abroad for processed products are less tedious because they (markets) assume that pests are already dead in processed food compared to fresh agricultural products,” she said in mixed English and Filipino in an e-forum.
De la Rosa said markets for the country’s fresh agricultural goods in traditional markets like Japan, Korea, and China are already saturated.
“If we expand our markets to far flung areas like Europe, South Africa, South America, it is difficult if (we export) purely fresh (products) so we need to diversify to processing (of product for value-adding) to expand their shelf life so we need R&D (research and development) for that,” she said.
“So that we can (also) generate more jobs for our agripreneurs, people in the farms. This can help because we get their produce and then we process these with value,” she added.
In 2020, de la Rosa said total agri-fishery trade declined by 10 percent to $19 billion from $21 billion the previous year. Trade balance for the period covered was about $7 billion in favor of imports.
Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, she said top agri-fishery exports last year included cavendish banana; crude coconut oil; canned tuna; fresh or dried pineapples; cigarettes containing tobacco, other than beedies and clove cigarettes; desiccated coconut; and prepared or preserved pineapples.
Apart from these products, de la Rosa said the Philippines has outstanding market access requests for various agricultural and poultry products in other countries such as Singapore, China, Taiwan, Australia, Brazil, Iran, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States.
To boost Philippine exports of agriculture products, she also identified other items which the country can promote in overseas markets.
“Right now, we are working on the market access of Hass avocado… We have dragon fruit and we also have durian to explore. But right now, what is really needed as far I’m concerned, I talked to them (markets), is there is a high demand for virgin coconut oil because of the Covid (coronavirus disease). Perhaps the VCO had a positive impact to (defeat) Covid so the demand I think is very high,” she added.
De la Rosa also urged exporters to explore other export markets for local agricultural products such as France and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states comprising Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
“There are many products that we can export to these (EFTA) countries that we are not yet exporting so we can probably use the FTAs (free trade agreements) that we have in these countries to maximize or to export our products,” she said, citing as examples fish products, dried fruits and fruit juices, tropical fruit wine, and muscovado sugar.
She said France, on the other hand, has standing inquiry for additional volume on pandan leaves.
“We would like to encourage agri-fishery exporters to utilize our FTA with Japan under the PJEPA (Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement) because almost all of our products are already zero duty in Japan… All important agri-fishery products have either zero tariff or lower tariff in Japan,” de la Rosa said.
Under the Asean-Korea FTA, she said the Philippines has zero tariff in Korea for its nuts, prepared fruits and vegetables, goat meat, turmeric, dairy spreads, and cocoa powder.
Meanwhile, processed food and beverages are among the key export sectors that have been identified under the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022. Others include electronics, information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) business services, and tourism and travel-related goods.
“That’s an indicative one based on several criteria. But we hope to actually engage with consultants, definitely we need to revisit and review immediately (the Plan). But we talk about priorities, we identified key priorities but we do not neglect other sectors,” said Agnes Legaspi, Assistant Director at the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB).
Legaspi said they are working closely with the Export Development Council in terms of identifying industry champions and mapping action plans to increase Philippine exports.
She said key strategy action agenda under the PEDP 2018-2022 include improving the overall climate for export development, exploiting existing and prospective opportunities from trading arrangements, and designing comprehensive packages of support for selected products and services sectors.