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Focus on 3 niche export products to EFTA

The Swiss Import Promotion Programme has launched its studies on Philippine products with big market potential in European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

Local agricultural products with export opportunities in EFTA and other European countries include value-added textiles, natural ingredients, and processed food.

In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry, SIPPO’s market study aims to promote exports of these agricultural products and also to harness the potential of the free trade agreement between the Philippines and EFTA.

Market study for value-added textiles identified silk, abaca, banana, and pineapple fibers to have potential in EFTA and larger European markets.

“Fabric is the most traded item… It can be a potentially interesting segment as long as the Filipino suppliers are able to meet international silk fabric buyers’ increasingly demanding requirements in terms of creativity, quality, social, and environmental compliance and, of course, prices,” the SIPPO study said.

But Filipino suppliers have to compete with existing suppliers from China, Italy, and France that dominate world exports of silk woven fabrics.

Citing a report of the non-profit organization Textile Exchange, abaca, banana, and pineapple fibers were not mentioned as preferred fiber and materials, which the SIPPO study said indicates a low knowledge of these fibers in the fashion and textile industry.

The study added this three-fiber sector “indicate(s) a possible path to reposition the Philippines on the world of fashion scene”, particularly in the sustainable fashion scene, as the country has competitive stakes in abaca, banana, and pineapple fibers.

The SIPPO study also highlighted the importance of investments in spinning to make Filipino fibers more competitive in the European market.

“For it is this sector that will make it possible to irrigate all the downstream branches of the industry, in particular knitting and weaving, with collections of yarns conceived and manufactured for the tastes of the European and international markets. Because without threads, without these specially tailored bricks, one simply cannot build the house, one simply cannot access the market,” it added.

With the growing demand for natural and sustainable products, exporters have good potential in Europe’s market in selling natural ingredient products.

The study said the country has a unique position to become a supplier of indigenous and innovative though traditional, natural ingredients.

Among the country’s main market advantages cited in the SIPPO market study include high biodiversity with a high percentage of endemic species offering diverse natural resources; traditional knowledge on indigenous plants and the use in herbal medicine; diversification of products; fast developing sector; a large pool of skilled and high resource people; supportive network for extensive market intelligence; and high potential in the development of technologies for the processing of native raw materials into high-quality natural ingredients.

Among the natural ingredients with high potential in the EFTA and other European markets are desiccated coconut and coconut oil, calamansi extract, carrageenan, moringa.

Other natural ingredients such as purple yam, turmeric, butterfly pea flower or blue ternatea, elemi resin, and elemi essential oil have also potential in the European market.

For processed food, the SIPPO study said exporters should meet the market access requirements such as packaging, size marking, labeling, standards, and certifications.

Dried fruits, frozen fruit and vegetables, fruit purees, muscovado sugar, coconut palm sugar, coconut palm syrup, stevia, pili nuts, jams, jellies, and marmalades are processed food that have big potential in Europe.

“Notwithstanding the fierce competition in and the complexity of the European processed food market, many buyers in Europe and regional markets have an open mind for new suppliers of special products. The Philippines have intrinsic opportunities for certain small windows in the European processed food market, although the number of potential products from the archipelago is still limited,” the market study added.

Swiss Amb. Alan Gaschen said he expects to find more Philippine products in European shops in the future with the help of these market studies.

“We are convinced that the Philippines can find the means, talent, and energy to position the country on the international stage as a supplier of innovative, attractive, and sustainable items especially in the markets of certified and ecological products,” Gaschen said.