|Food Processors Provide Opportunities for Mindanao Farmers by Becoming Globally Competitive|
DAVAO CITY—Food processing firms in Mindanao that comply with international food quality and safety requirements are helping to create more livelihood opportunities for the region’s growers.
This has been the experience of several companies that have acquired HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) certification with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
HACCP, a systematic, preventive approach to food safety and quality that limits potential physical, chemical and biological hazards in food production, is increasingly becoming a standard requirement for export markets.
Food processors which are HACCP-certified generally see a jump in the number of interested buyers from other countries. To fill the growing demand for their products, these firms source additional raw materials from farmer-suppliers.
“The buyers who at one time would not even return my calls, are now buying products following our HACCP certification,” said Helen del Rosario of Soyuz Foods, a processor of native lime (calamansi)-based products that participated in the recent international trade show PhilFoodEx.
Del Rosario said that she is expanding her company’s farmer-supplier base and meeting regularly with individual growers, farming cooperatives, and other groups in southern and northern Mindanao, to ensure a steady supply of the native limes for Soyuz.
“We have to find more suppliers to meet increased demand,” said Marilou Fernandez of KF Nutri Foods International, which, through USAID assistance acquired HACCP certification in 2010.
KF Nutri Foods, which exports processed banana chips, sources much of its fruit supply from conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
“The Cardaba banana from which we make our chips is not a plantation crop but is grown on small farms,” added Fernandez.
“Farmers now have more options for selling,” said Isidro Ang, vice president of Martsons Food Corporation, which sells tropical fruit products such as dried mango, pineapple and papaya, as well as fruit juices and aseptic purees.
Martsons is one of fifteen Mindanao firms, all small-to-medium enterprises, which have acquired HACCP certification through the assistance of USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, which is implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
USAID helps companies to develop the systems and procedures needed for HACCP-compliance, which must be audited and certified by TUV-SUD, an internationally recognized quality management agency based in Germany.
The companies shoulder part of the consultancy and certification fees involved, as well as the costs of developing or upgrading of their existing plant facilities as needed.
Depending on the individual company, HACCP requirements may include building renovations, reconfiguring of assembly lines, training of workers, and introduction of monitoring and documentation systems.
HACCP certification is a major undertaking but companies like Martsons, which already exports to Asian countries and North America, believe that the investment is worth it. “HACCP is demanded by our customers,” Ang said. ”This will allow us to enter new markets.”
“The growing competitiveness of Mindanao’s food processors has multiplier effects along the supply chain,” said Fernandez of KF Nutri Foods, who notes that even small produce traders are able to take advantage of the new market opportunities.
Foreseeing increased demand and trying to create economies of scale, Del Rosario of Soyuz Foods has begun training some of her farmer-suppliers to semi-process native lime (calamansi).
She is also experimenting with new uses for her products, and says, “there is nothing to prevent even small-scale entrepreneurs like us from engaging in research and development.”
Published in GoldStar Daily, April 13, 2012; Daily Zamboanga Times, April 12, 2012