By Carol RH Malasig
DTI Asec. Demphna Du-Naga, Philippine ambassador to Germany Ma. Theresa Dizon-de Vega, presidential consort Honeylet Avanceña, and DTI Usec. Abdulgani Macatoman pose for a photo at the of Anuga main stage in Cologne, Germany
BERLIN—Have you ever heard of black garlic? It’s the secret ingredient of most Japanese chefs who have perfected the now world-famous black ramen. “Japanese black garlic costs so much but using garlic from the Philippines is better,” said Clarke Nebrao as he manned his stall at the Philippine pavilion in this year’s Anuga. Nebrao added that recent studies show Philippine garlic is more potent than any other garlic in the world, making it the perfect type to ferment. “You’ll only need a little every time.”
To make black garlic, fresh bulbs are fermented and dried to retain certain flavors and enhance them, turning the cloves into black in the process. Sounds simple but it takes Nebrao and his team almost 60 days to produce a batch of the highly-coveted product in Japan. Black garlic is not just used for cooking but as a supplement. It is said that merely two cloves of the fermented spice a day, can protect the immune system and regenerate cells.
Nebrao is one of the business men who own Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that were brought to Germany for the world’s biggest trade fair. Participating through the Department of Trade’s One Town, One Product (OTOP) program, Nebrao has already gotten a Dutch buyer who made a bulk order for his black garlic on the fair’s first day.
MSMEs Take Centerstage
Presidential consort Honeylet Avanceña was at the opening to offer inspiration to the participants. During her speech, she lauded the participating MSMEs for their efforts and asked that they keep going. “There will be struggles, trials,” Avanceña said. Sometimes, on your first try, you will succeed. Sometimes, no. I’m telling all of you aspiring businessmen, entrepreneurs, forget the word surrender. Continue to persevere and innovate.”
Avanceña said she also asked bigger companies in the roster such as Mega Global Corporation, makers of Mega Sardines, and Century Pacific Food, which manufactures Century Tuna products, to mentor the MSMEs and help them succeed.
This is the Philippines’ biggest participation at Anuga with 36 companies in the country pavilion. “Our country’s biggest participation comes at a most opportune time,” Philippine Ambassador to Germany Ma. Theresa Dizon de Vega said. “Germany, the European market in general, is going through a food revolution. Food tastes are changing. Nutrition needs, nutrition concerns are changing. Here, in this part of the world, terms like bio, natur, gluten-free, herbal, organic are not just buzz words. They’re real.”
Black Garlic from the Philippines makes its way to Anuga 2019
Focusing on the country’s seven premium exports during the trade fair—bananas, cacao, coconuts, coffee, mangoes, pineapples, and tuna—manufacturers are hoping to attract more business back to the Philippines. Companies netted $65.7 million in sales during the last Anuga.
Several of the exhibitors from the Philippines feature wellness products, which are of high demand in Germany and the whole of Europe.
“This year, we’re gunning for $66 million,” Althea Antonio, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) counselor to Germany, said. “There’s high interest in products coming from our side of the world, which is why fellow trade officers from London, Stockholm, and Brussels also came to bring business to Filipinos from other parts of Europe.”
While the highest demand is still for the country’s traditional exports like banana chips and dried mangoes, new products need not be threatened. From moringa and turmeric tea to healthier sweeteners such as coconut sugar, the Philippines is not short on variety this time around. Europe’s health-conscious population makes sure there’s enough demand.
Organic coconut-based products from the Philippines
“The Philippines’ turmeric and moringa are already here and I’m sure our pili nuts and calamansi would also be a hit in this show,” Antonio added. “Aside from the curiosity for new flavors, Europeans are looking for new ingredients for cosmetics as well.”
Halal is the New Arena
DTI undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman, meanwhile, is looking into getting the Philippines a bigger share in the halal export market.
“It’s the fastest growing industry in the world. In Europe, the market is huge, about 175 million people,” Macatoman said. “It’s not just a mark for Muslims as it is a mark of quality.”
Most halal products from the Philippines are now found in Muslim-majority countries in Asia and the Middle East and now the country is looking into the Muslim population in Europe.
Currently, the Philippines has nine halal certification bodies recognized by the Philippine Accreditaion Bureau (PAB). Trade assistant secretary Demphna Du-Naga, who handles OTOP, said having several certifying bodies in the Philippines means more choices for smaller businesses. “They get to choose where to get their products and processes certified,” he explained. “Certification is now cheaper with the influx of these players.”
Other local products include Moringa and More
This is not just the case for halal products but for businesses looking into organic certifications, there are also several certifying bodies as well. In Europe where the preference for organic produce and all-natural products are quite high, such certifications are mandatory.
Du-Naga added that with the proper certifications, Philippine products are welcome in the EU, even products from small businesses. “They have the chance to make it here in Europe, positioning on niche and specialized markets such as healthy and organic products, which can be supplied in Asian stores and beyond.”
Out of the country’s premium exports, it could be noted that three were missing—coffee, cacao, and pineapple. The trade department is hoping manufacturers from this sector will join the next Anuga to make such Filipino products accessible to Europe.
In the past year, the Philippines’ trade with the EU amounted to $17.49 billion. According to the Trade Department’s Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the balance of trade with the EU is in favor of the Philippines with a surplus of $320.71 million.