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Unfulfilled PromisePhilippine food processors look on the bright side of the country's underperforming food exports, writes ROMY P. MARI袮S

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Date Published:12/3/2008 11:12:02 AM

IT HAS never looked brighter for the processed food sector in the Philippines, at least to Jesus Tanchanco Jr.
IT HAS never looked brighter for the processed food sector in the Philippines, at least to Jesus Tanchanco Jr. An apparent optimist, Tanchanco is a Filipino food entrepreneur and exporter who formed the Food Entrepreneurs and Exporters of the Philippines, or FEEP, in 2005 搃n order to more effectively and efficiently address concerns and issues affecting Philippine food companies.? Until he organized FEEP, he had been a charter member of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc., or Philfoodex. His father, Jesus Tanchanco Sr., was a former administrator of the Philippines?National Grains Authority, now the National Food Authority. The older Tanchanco was a past president of Philfoodex, which has been around since 1985. On Tanchanco's screen is China, at which 揺veryone is looking?as one big untapped market and other arguably smaller niches for Halal, kosher and organic food products. At present, he says, traditional markets for Philippine processed-food products are the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, the Middle East and some parts of Europe. Tanchanco explains that these usual destinations are home to sizeable Filipino communities who long for food from their rural roots in the Philippines. But, he says, 揺xcept for the traditional multinationals such as Del Monte and Dole, we have not been able to tap significantly the mainstream markets for our traditional export markets.?

Playing Catch-Up

Tanchanco points out, though, that the customary destinations represent only a tiny part of the global demand for food products. “The demand internationally is huge,?Tanchanco says. “We in the Philippines have not even started to scratch the surface.? If the Philippines?processed-food sector would make deeper notches, he says, it stood to raise its export receipts from the four percent to five percent, or about $200 million, of the total national take of $4.5 billion as of May 2008. The Food Entrepreneurs and Exporters of the Philippines, of which Tanchanco, 51, is chairman, only ships out canned, bottled, dried, fried and frozen meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, condiments and baked goods. The country's food industry itself also exports these processed food products, plus fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and seafood. Despite the apparently rosy picture for Philippine-made processed foods, Tanchanco admits, local exporters need to catch up and fast with their Asian competitors. He says that the country's export receipts for the first five months of 2008 are 搗ery small considering the rich source of raw materials that we have.? Tanchanco cites Thailand, whose take from processed food exports normally comprises about 15 to 16 percent of its total export receipts. In 2007, Thailand totted up $8 billion in processed food earnings out of the country's total exports valued at $54 billion. 揙ur neighbors have already taken greater strides. We have been left behind,?Tanchanco says. But, ever the optimist, he adds that local processed food manufacturers ?knowing the market potential of processed food exports ?favor the Philippine bid for a top spot in the world market. “The future can抰 be all that bad. It really depends on how we handle the situation and how we market, present and promote our products,?Tanchanco says.

Little Investment in New Technology

The situation is that the Philippine processed food sector lacks the necessary investments primarily in new technologies, especially those involving packaging and quality control. Tanchanco also points out that the Philippines lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in presenting to the global market the kind of processed food products that would make prospective buyers take a second look at the goods. 揝ome Philippine manufacturers are still even into second-hand packaging using bottles and cartons,?he rues. 揑f you place our proJordan Shoes

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