Food Exporters Target EU Market

MANILA, Philippines --- The country's food exporters are bent on expanding its presence in the European Union (EU), a confederation of 27 member-states and the world's single largest trading body, via its hotel, restaurant and catering (horeca) sector that represents a market worth $97.818 billion in the region's total food and beverage imports in 2010.

Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Executive Director Rosvi C. Gaetos cited changes in EU's consumption pattern as a boon to Philippine food exports, with the horeca sector expected to continue to expand from the market's increasing preference to dine out or buy takeaway food.

Gaetos pointed out as proof the almost 1.5 million enterprises constituting the EU's horeca sector in

2008 alone.

Of that number, over half were restaurants and 43.2 percent were cafés or bars, according to Eurostat, EU's statistical office situated in Luxembourg.

"This EU sector (horeca) presents a key and strategic market for the Philippines' high-value food and beverage products," Gaetos stressed.

EU provides a single frontier for all the food imports of its 27 member-states - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The region, according to EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux, imports from the Philippines 75 percent or P21 billion worth of all its coconut oil requirements, P7.5 billion worth of fishery products and P4.8 billion worth of tropical fruits.

Gaetos, however, sees opportunities for CITEM and its partner, the Department of Agriculture - Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service, to further raise the Philippines' share in EU's total imports through the country's participation in Salon de l' Alimentation (SIAL) 2012, the world's second-largest international biennial food fair that draws more than 130,000 trade visitors from 200 countries.

"Slated at the Paris Norde Villepinte on October 21-25, SIAL 2012 will enable the Philippines to showcase its ethnic food flavors and exotic fruits and introduce new SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to the European market and the rest of the world," Gaetos said, citing the support of the DA-AMAS as a co-organizer of the Philippine participation in this event.

"Thus, we (CITEM and DA-AMAS) are inviting our food companies, from the large to the small, to join the Philippine delegation and take advantage of Europe's increasing demand for Asian food and ingredients brought about by the growing number of health-conscious consumers and the large ethnic groups residing in wealthy EU economies.

"They include Asian migrants and tourists, and the more than 500,000 EU-based Filipinos, all constituting a huge demand that major retailers in Germany, Belgium, Italy, France and the UK are eager to supply," Gaetos explained.

To house the country's exhibits in SIAL 2012 will be the Philippine Pavilion, featuring fresh, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables, fruit juices and purees, sauces and mixes, and frozen, processed and canned sea food and preserved fish products like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and tuna, among others, thus reinforcing the country's image as a reliable source of 100-percent quality food and ingredients.

Earlier, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization projected global food imports to reach a new record of $1.29 trillion in 2011, or 21 percent more than in 2010, which Gaetos cited as more of an opportunity for the Philippines than a problem.

Philippine food exports rose 21 percent during the first four months of the year significantly resulting from aggressive promotion abroad by CITEM, whose overseas campaigns generated total sales of US$87 million in the first half of 2012 alone, with $12.54 million of last year's coming from the outcome of the country's exhibits in ANUGA 2011, a leading international food fair held in Cologne, Germany last October.

As of April 2012, the country's total food export was already $2.57 billion, which Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo attributed partly to the positive impact of the country's participation in overseas fairs.