‘Invest in research, people’-A A +A
Monday, April 28, 2014
THE ability of the country’s food companies to compete in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations integration in 2015 lies in research, equipment and people, an official said.
Joel Pascual, president of Premier Event Plus Group Inc. that organizes the World Food Expo (WFO), said in an interview during the eighth WFO in SM City Cebu last week that for local players to compete with neighboring food players, they should invest in research and development and upgrade their people’s skills.
“We can stand out if we choose to,” said Pascual when asked if the local food industry players can compete with neighbors in Southeast Asia.
With the Asean integration, there will be free movement of goods among member countries.
Pascual said investing in equipment is vital to further increase the production of food products. He added that not only should industry players invest in machines but also consider upgrading the skills of their employees.
“If you upgrade your facility, you upgrade your skills. The equipment must always match the knowledge,” Pascual said.
The official said that in food production, it is important to inculcate among farmers that not only should they harvest but also process their produce.
“Local farmers should think of ways to have products that are value-added. It’s not enough to harvest, it should be processed,” he said.
According to Pascual, Filipino farmers tend to just export their produce, which later on will be processed in other countries. The processed products are then sold back in the Philippines at a higher price. He said this should have been done by the locals themselves.
He said that by processing their own produce, farmers can earn more.
He cited as example tamarind from Thailand, which is now sold in the Philippines. It is gaining popularity among buyers, especially the tamarind pellets.
A Cebu product, the Choco Mangga or chocolate-dipped dried mango, is also attracting both local and foreign buyers.
Pascual said one box of Choco Mangga is sold at P500. He said he even brings it to the United States as pasalubong.
“I am proud that our local players are already innovating. Dried mangoes have been there for so long,” he said.
Pascual said that his organization is also holding talks with local government units and farmers in Mindanao, especially in Davao, on processing their harvest since these areas have big tracts of farm lands.
In Cebu, he said they are focusing on food service in hotels, restaurants, and resorts since tourism in the province is strong.
He said they are working on continuously improving food service since it is one of the factors supporting the increase in tourist arrivals.
“Food plays a vital role not only for survival, it is also our showcase to the international arena,” he said.
Filipino food is a unique cuisine compared with other Southeast Asian countries and has been “exciting” neighbors, he said.
“People are excited with our flavors. We are unique among our neighboring countries.. our cuisine is so different from everyone around us,” he said.
Last April 26 to 29, around 60 food exhibitors involved in food manufacturing, packaging and kitchen wares participated in WFO in SM City Cebu.
Pascual said that with their participation in expos like WFO, participants can create their networks of entrepreneurs who are in the same business as theirs, source the latest equipment for their business and learn from the experts in the food industry.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 29, 2014.