WEE Project Micro Entrepreneurs Showcased in IFEX Philippines

Eighteen women micro entrepreneurs (WME) supported by the Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) Project participated in the International Food Exposition (IFEX) Philippines on May 24-26, 2019 at the World Trade Center Manila.

Dubbed as NXTFOOD Asia, this 13th edition of IFEX Philippines is a three-day international trade exhibition for Asia’s top food products, flavors and ideas. IFEX Philippines is the banner food event for Asian and Philippine food champions of Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission (CITEM). It aims to exhibit a wide and diversified array of food and ingredients that are uniquely Asian, and serves as a one-stop business to business platform for leading buyers, importers and retailers around the world who endeavor to optimize their sourcing experience.

Ms. Beata Casiguran from Region 8, owner of Beata’s Delicacies, declaring her support for the economic empowerment of women in the Philippines 

Wealth of Experience and Opportunities

For the Philippine Commission on Women which leads the implementation of Supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Philippines or WEE Project, this international trade exposition provided an excellent venue for the 18 WMEs to exhibit and promote their products to the local and international markets. It also enabled them to share and gain knowledge on investment opportunities, international export standards, and the latest market trends. The products that were given exposure are ground coffee, peanuts, fruit juices and fermented fruits, mushroom, potato and cassava chips, buko pies, turmeric tea, and chocolate bars among others.

The Philippines is expected to become a $1 trillion economy by 2030 according to Washington-based analytics firm HIS Global Insights. And by 2050, the HSBC Holdings PLC forecasts the country to be the 16th largest economy in the world, the 5th in Asia and the largest economy in the South East. This projected growth in the country’s economy leads to varied opportunities especially in the food industry. Being the world’s top producer and exporter of pineapple (2nd), banana (2nd), coconut (4th), canned tuna (4th), and mangoes (9th), food accounts alone contribute to around 23-24% of the annual gross domestic product. With an average annual growth rate of 8-10%, the food industryhas been identified by the Philippine government as the priority sector for attracting foreign investment under special economic zones.

Audrey Arellano from Bohol Province who is the youngest WME participant likened the experience of preparing for the show to a roller coaster ride.

“I was excited to make my products and introduce them to a new market. But the unexpected happened – some of my ingredients were out of stock and I needed to solve my problems as soon as possible so I could produce something. During ingress, I saw The and Philo and Malagos Chocolates – these are established companies that make chocolate bars. I was overwhelmed because I didn’t expect that I would be part of the big leagues!”

She also shared that the trade fair gave them the opportunity to meet and speak with like-minded people.

“I may not gain a big sale but I am coming home with an inspired mind and a full heart filled with lessons and happy memories,” Arellano added.

One of the goals for supporting the participation of the WMEs in the trade fair is to expand their market and establish network and linkages. Continuous engagement with the 18 WMEs will also be done, such as through the establishment of partnership with those who could assist them in branding and market product developments like creation of product logos, flyers, and setting up an official website.

Salve SL. San Juan of FSJ Pasalubong Sentral expressed her gratitude for being sponsored by the WEE Project to participate in IFEX.

“The three-day event gave us a new platform to promote traditional Bicolano dishes to both local and international markets. It also paved a way for us to meet reliable suppliers and answer our need for new packaging. We also gained new contacts and experiences that would be difficult for us to have if we did not join the IFEX,” San Juan shared.

The WEE Project WMEs that participated in this event are Kibungan Arabica Coffee Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, JAC Farms, Alcala Women’s Rural Improvement Club, JBM Food Products, Balai Kabute Farm, TLM Yema Buko Pie and Pasalubong Center, Café Amadeo Development Cooperative, Merlo Agricultural Corporation, Fabcarr Food Products, Yulaik Food Products, FSJ Pasalubong Sentral, Al Di Foods, McNester Food Products, Table Chocolate, Beata’s Delicacies, Mary’s Abuyog Espesyal Tsokoleyt Moron Atbp, Ayana’s Siling Kinamayo, and Brown Cup Coffee.

IFEX Philippines was organized by CITEM, the export promotion arm of the Department of Trade and Industry, and co-presented by the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development Council, the Department of Agriculture, and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc.