#FoodPH - Gov’t trade show revitalizes PH food exports, love for local flavors

On Thursday, September 22, the government-sponsored food trade show IFEX Philippines 2022 successfully opened at the World Trade Center Metro Manila. During the three-day event, IFEX Philippines welcomed close to 6,000 local and international buyers and tourists from all over the world, originally producing USD 100 million in export sales and PHP 56 million in domestic sales. These numbers are still anticipated to rise. The festival featured thousands of high-end Philippine cuisine products from more than 300 local vendors.

Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda "Imee" Marcos, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, and Sen. Cynthia Villar attended the event to support the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) initiative to strengthen the nation's food micro, small, and medium companies (MSMEs).

Among those who were also present at the opening ceremony were top foreign and Philippine government officials: Undersecretary Ireneo Vizmonte, Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); CITEM Deputy Executive Director Ma. Lourdes Mediran; H.E. Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad Kazi, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Commercial Counsellor Serhan Ortaç of the Turkish Embassy; Assistant Director Jhino Ilano of the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB); Executive Director Maria Rita Matute of the Design Center of the Philippines; Executive Director Nelly Nita Dillera of Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC); Mr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis, President and CEO of PHILEXPORT; and Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia.

IFEX Philippines 2022 is planned to be "a site of reunion and rediscovery" where Philippine food firms and foreign purchasers may reaffirm their collaborations and establish new relationships, according to CITEM's deputy executive director Ma. Lourdes D. Mediran. The Philippines, the United States, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Japan, and Australia were the countries with the most visitors.

Sen. Cynthia Villar emphasized the importance of agriculture in boosting the economy and the efforts being made to support the sector in her keynote speech, which was recorded. Villar contends that in order to maintain flexibility during emergencies like the COVID-19 epidemic, the agricultural sector needs to be supported.

“We should continue supporting our local produce to ensure our food security and self-sufficiency,” said Villar.

Meanwhile, Usec. Ireneo Vizmonte reiterated DTI’s commitment to the food sector. Vizmonte also acknowledged the global factors that affect the country’s economy, saying these conditions require sustainable and inclusive government response. 

Vizmonte said that science, technology, and innovation are essential in building a competitive economy and will be central to the work of DTI under the leadership of Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

“The goal is to grow and develop globally competitive and innovative industries that support inclusive growth and improve environmental sustainability and the quality of life for Filipinos,” said Vizmonte.

According to Vizmonte, one of DTI’s priorities is the digital transformation of MSMEs and the growth and development of startups. Through innovation and digitalization, DTI aims to double its efforts to upgrade and scale MSMEs in order to improve their productivity growth, employment creation, and participation in global value chains.

“The MSME sector is instrumental to the growth of the Philippine economy, accounting for 99% of all businesses in the country. Needless to say, it is of utmost importance that we ensure that entrepreneurs have access to all the resources, platforms, and technologies that they need to grow their businesses," said Vizmonte.

In addition to supporting the MSMEs, he also said that to promote industrialization, DTI will reconfigure the export industry into three clusters: Industrial, Manufacturing, and Transport; Technology, Media, and Telecommunication; and Health and Life Sciences. Through this strategy, DTI seeks to further build up the country as an exporter of high-value products.

Assistant Secretary Glenn Peñaranda, OIC of DTI’s Trade Promotions Group (TPG), echoed this in his recorded welcome message by highlighting programs that help MSMEs boost their competitiveness in the global market. These programs include capacity-building like the Philippine Trade Training Center's (PTTC) Global MSME Academy; export assistance programs like RIPPLES; and market access platforms like CITEM’s signature programs and participation in overseas trade fairs.

“The Philippines is one of the most exciting destinations for quality food exports, but with stiff competition from our neighbors, and other drivers such as climate change and health crises, we must continuously adapt and reassert our place in the market,” said Peñaranda.

 From left to right: H.E. Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad Kazi, Ambassador Embassy of Pakistan, Mr. Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis of PHILEXPORT, CITEM Deputy Executive Director Ma. Lourdes D. Mediran; Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia; Undersecretary Ireneo V. Vizmonte,  Officer-in-Charge (OIC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

Celebrating Filipino creativity and innovation in the food sector

Aside from providing an avenue for food MSMEs to showcase their goods, IFEX Philippines also recognized the most innovative products for each product category. CITEM named the winners of the Katha Awards for Food on the opening night of IFEX Philippines.

Katha Awards recognizes exporters that explore new galleries of flavors, original brand ideas, unique food fusions, and creative packaging methods. Through this, Katha Awards aims to strengthen the reputation of the Philippines as a go-to destination for globally competitive Asian food and ingredients.

Sen. Imee Marcos, Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, and Chairperson of the Committee on Cooperatives, delivered a special message in which she discussed the current problems in the food and agriculture sectors, including import reliance, food shortages, and hunger. She emphasized the importance of supporting the MSME sector to address these issues. Marcos also lauded efforts such as the Katha Awards, which incentivizes businesses to develop new and innovative products for export.

“The truth of the matter is that I truly believe that in the end, all these depressing views in the agricultural and food sector can only be righted by a much more vigorous and vibrant MSME and retail population,” Marcos said.

Here are the winners of the Katha Awards during IFEX Philippines 2022.

New Product Category for Beverages

Sol's Italian Food, Rafael Cococnut Cream

New Product Category for Fine food and specialties

Miguelito's International Corporation, Instant Puto Bumbong

New Product Category for Marine/Seafood

Fisher Farms Inc., Gourmet Fillet Sampler Box

New Product Category for Meat & Poultry Products

Gulf Pacific Integrated Exports/Elarz, Corned Lechon Lagablab

New Product Category for Snack Foods & Crisp Savoury Products

Innovative Packaging Industry, OSH Choco Dipped Mango Crisps

New Product Category for Baked Goods & Confectioneries

Theo and Philo, Dark Chocolate Covered Cashew and Honey

New Product Category for Processed Fruits and Vegetables

Century Pacific Food Inc, Unmeat Luncheon Meat

New Product Category for Natural, Healthy & Organic Products

Pasciolco Agri-Ventures, Coconut Amínos

Best Booth

Fisherfarms, Inc.

Special Citation for Sustainability

HIJO Superfoods, Quirino Young Entrepreneur's Association

To learn more about IFEX Philippines, visit IFEXConnect.com.

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