MANILA — The Philippines has taken the opportunity to highlight its milestones in the agri-fishery trade as well as the country’s initiatives for Southeast Asia’s economic integration by 2015 as it hosts Southeast Asia’s largest food exhibition to date at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.
The SIAL ASEAN food market was organized for the first time in Manila by Paris-based Salon International de l’Agroalimentaire (SIAL) and is being held alongside the Manila Food and Beverage Expo (MAFBEX) from June 11-13.
The event boasts of over 500 exhibitors from 20 countries worldwide and is expected to draw 15,000 visitors from all over Asia.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the three-day event would give opportunity for the country’s food, agriculture and agribusiness industries to pitch in their export products to the world.
“The Philippines will also take advantage of the event to showcase the World Bank-funded Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) that aims to put up market-oriented interventions in rural areas throughout the country,” he said.
The government, under its Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, has identified investments in food and agriculture as a major imperative as it works to achieve food security, raise quality of life in rural areas and sustain economic prosperity.
Alcala said the PRDP, which is under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, is a six-year program that aims to achieve just that.
Its major components include local planning, infrastructure development, agro-industrial enterprise development and program support in order to increase rural incomes and enhance farm and fishery productivity in preparation to the ASEAN integration.
“The SIAL ASEAN is a good venue to introduce the PRDP to the public and for various agri-fisheries stakeholders to network and exchange ideas on agri-entreprenuership,” Alcala said.
“This is also an opportunity for local agri-entreprenuers to witness various practices in food production, processing and trading in different countries while at the same time promoting their products to foreign investors,” he added.
Meanwhile, SIAL ASEAN organizers said the 10-member ASEAN is a market with high potentials: it contains 10 percent of the world population and has 618 million consumers; it is the European Union’s third largest trading partner; has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.8 percent per year; and a rising middle class whose GDP per person has tripled from 1994 to 2011.
Alcala said that Philippine agriculture is one of the major contributions of the country to the ASEAN growth and said that the ongoing SIAL ASEAN event is proof of the country’s own high potentials in international trade.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) revealed that the country’s agricultural exports last year increased by 25 percent, from USD 5.04 billion in 2012 to USD 6.32 billion in 2013.
Coconut oil remained the biggest export earner at USD 950.55 million, followed by fresh bananas (USD 911.75 million), tuna (USD 664.86 million), and pineapple and pineapple products (USD 416.8 million).
During the same period, the country successfully reduced its agricultural trade deficit by 52.6 percent – from USD 3.13 billion in 2012 to USD 1.48 billion in 2013 – as exports soared while imports dropped.
PSA data showed that farm and fishery imports from January to December of last year fell by 4.5 percent to US.8 billion.
“For a country that derives a significant part of its export earnings from agricultural commodities, SIAL ASEAN is a vote of confidence about the potential and prevailing dynamism of Philippine agriculture,” Alcala said.