The Philippines’ total agricultural trade reached USD 5.93 billion in the third quarter of last year according to the Philippine Statistics Authority report on December 13, 2021. This was 14.8 percent more than the same period in 2020, leading to a total of USD 1.76 billion agricultural export revenue.
On January 25, 2022, the Committee on International Trade organized a special meeting to discuss the reports of the Philippine Agriculture Attachés on the trade performance of the country’s agri-fishery products in Europe, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and China.
Key industry players were updated on the 2021 import and export data along with the top 10 major agri-fishery export products. Also presented were the trade issues, export opportunities and constraints, including the non-tariff measures imposed by importing countries, and proposed policies and strategies to improve the competitiveness of the industries.
Europe (Rome, Italy, and Belgium)
According to Philippine Agriculture Attaché Josyline Javelosa’s report, Europe imported about USD 1.049 billion of agri-food products from the Philippines in 2020. This accounts for 17.4% of the agri-food export value, making the geographical region rank third next to East Asia and the USA as a Philippine agri-food export destination.
The Agricultural and Fishery Council (AFC) explored the data on the market share vis-a-vis participation of corporate and non-corporate exports. According to the AFCs, this would open possible opportunities for smallholder farms through the help of the Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program.
However, the Foreign Agriculture Service Corps (FASC) responded that commercial transitions data were not disclosed by companies. Nevertheless, FASC would try to deduce the data from the corporate and non-corporate exports to determine the involvement of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in international trade.
Dr. Javelosa also reported that there were opportunities for the promotion of Philippine organic products, including pili nuts in the European market.
One of the concerns raised about the opportunities was the costly third-party certification for Organic Agriculture products affecting exportation. The Committee confirmed that there is a need to fix the certification system to provide a conducive export environment for domestic producers.
United States of America (USA)
Philippine Agriculture Attaché Dr. Maria Araceli Escandor informed the Committee that the approval of the Philippine Blue Swimming Crab (BSC) Management Plan (2021-2025) provides more opportunities for BSC exports to the US.
They are also negotiating the entry of fresh pineapples in all ports of the US. As of now, pineapples from the Philippines can only reach Guam, Commonwealth of Marianas Island, and North Atlantic regions.
Furthermore, there were communicated efforts to increase the domestic production of carrageenan as the Philippines is not greatly affected by the US’ newly imposed policies on exportation.
On the other hand, it was noted that there was insufficiency in the local supply of sugar to meet the demand of the US. The Sugar Regulatory Administration would further explain on this matter in succeeding meetings.
Philippine Agriculture Attaché Lupino Lazaro informed the Committee that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) already entered Switzerland in 2018. With this, the Philippines is encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities being provided under EFTA (e.g. duty-free market access).
According to the report, the Philippines is involved and actively participating in the ongoing negotiations on Public Stockholding.
FASC, with the help of Philippine Agriculture Attaché Ana Garcia Abejuela, pledged to coordinate with banana chip exporters regarding the assistance they need in the registration on the General Administration of Customs China.
It was also noted during the meeting that there is a need to check on the data of the Philippines’ import vis-a-vis China’s export to detect if there are any smuggling activities of agri-fishery products in the country.
Given this, strengthening of the Philippines’ anti-smuggling campaign was recommended to protect the domestic industries from smuggled goods.
Philippine Agriculture Attaché Jose Laquian said that there is a high demand for cacao beans in the international market but there is insufficient supply. This market potential could be explored by local cacao producers.
With the support of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is planning to organize the Philippine Chocolate Festival to promote domestically produced cacao products.
In relation to the Philippines’ market share and competitive advantage over Southeast Asian countries, Agriculture Attaché Aleli Maghirang noted that the country’s competitive advantage lies on the quality of Philippine bananas, specifically its taste. However, the lack of sustained volume forces South Korea to source these from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
She also reported that Vietnam has gained advantage over the Philippines since they entered a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea. It was able to increase its production due to additional investments from multinational companies.
The Philippines is adopting Vietnam’s strategy of encouraging more investments and providing additional support to domestic producers to increase production. Assistance in terms of promotion and marketing are also being provided.
On the inquiry regarding the appropriate packaging of fresh durian, Maghirang said that all relevant information was already forwarded to the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards but still emphasized the importance of coordinating with the airlines that will be transporting the fruits.
On the other hand, Maghirang reported that FASC will explore sourcing fertilizer from South Korea with the hope of lowered prices and that the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority could allow its importation.
Thailand and United Arab Emirates
Philippine Agriculture Attaché Nolet Fulgencio noted that there was a lack of awareness among farmers on the market potentials of desiccated coconuts, the coconut flesh or meat that has been flaked or shredded and dried, as a lucrative export product. Thus, she suggested for DA to conduct programs in raising awareness on such potential to entice more farmers.
The Committee also asked for updates regarding the lifting of ban on seafoods in Saudi Arabia. Fulgencio said that DA already submitted the relevant documents for review by authorities in Saudi Arabia and is awaiting formal response.
Fulgencio sees the need to revisit the country’s market access requests considering the negative balance of trade in favor of other countries. | JCL