While Philippine cuisine is getting more worldwide interest as chefs and restaurants work on making local dishes more appealing visually and taste-wise, Filipino entrepreneurs and agricultural producers are also offering better quality products.
At the yearly National Food Fair organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), various food products using local ingredients were given the spotlight.
The event, after all, aims to showcase good-quality products from various regions of the Philippines. Rhodora Leano, director of DTI Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion told InterAksyon, “It is one of a series of national domestic trade fairs that we mount in DTI, and the whole objective really is to find mainstream markets for the products of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises from all over the country.”
About 200 exhibitors from Luzon to Mindanao offering regional delicacies, organic products, and fresh produce were carefully selected to participate under the “Piling-Piling Pagkaing Pilipino” theme of the fair.
Attracting around 45,000 visitors each year, the National Food Fair continues to grow, and gather not just people buying for personal consumption but also institutional buyers and traders who are trying to develop networks.
“This is the fifth year we have done it, and it has grown throughout the years..It gets bigger and bigger every time. Now we have different areas with a product focus,” shares Leano.
A special setting for Halal-certified products from the Bicol region was one of the fair’s highlights. At this area, one can find variants of pili nut products–from roasted to glazed; as well as artisanal ones with flavors like salt and pepper, and Himalayan sea salt.
“We have one special setting that focuses on Halal. People often mistake Halal as merely the food of Muslims. When you say something is Halal, more than being food of Muslims, there is a process employed in the food preparation so this Halal-certified food are healthy. That’s a trend, and we want to penetrate that market. We want Philippines to be known as a supplier of Halal-certified food,” Leano shared.
The DTI official said there is a growing trend for for natural and organic products as well as for people to grown their own food and keep a garden that could supply their kitchen needs.
The fair also presented fresh, organic produce from the regions including pesticides-free, and naturally grown rice from the Caraga region; fruits and vegetables from Davao; free-range eggs from Batangas; and different plants from Quezon.
Another special setting featured the City Cooperative Development Office of Pasay where the public can attend workshops on urban farming through hydroponics and vertical gardening. Through the project, some residents of the city are now growing their own leafy vegetables and other plants for consumption as well as for selling.
Growing industry; better packaging
DTI sees that the food industry will continue to grow in the coming years. Leano said that according to the National Economic and Development Authority, 50% of all existing businesses in the Philippines are involved in the food industry.
“Filipinos love to eat, and basically, food is a need not a want. Most of the food here are comfort food of different provinces. It is an industry where we feel that we have a competitive edge because Filipinos are creative. We are good in creating new types of food. We are innovative. It is an industry that has a long value chain,” Leano said.
Leano added that the products being showcased at the fair each year have improved in terms of quality.
“Every year, we see improvements in the submissions from participating exhibitors, in terms of product quality as well as proper packaging and labeling. Through their exposure in the Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair, our SMEs from the regions are upgrading their standards to be more competitive not just for domestic buyers but for the global market as well,” Leano noted.
She noted that SMEs still face the challenge of meeting the standards that are set internationally, and in improving their packaging.