Swiss offers market for PH agri, natural textile products

Published December 15, 2020, 6:30 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Switzerland, one of the highest per capita countries in the world, has identified processed food, natural ingredients and value-added textiles as potential products that Philippines can export to their country and into the larger EU countries.

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A recent study by experts from the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO)  presented insights into Swiss and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and into the larger European markets opportunities for Filipino agricultural products and offer guidelines for exporters. The study also presented insights into EFTA markets’ trade regulations, market access requirements, and market demand in a webinar entitled `Export Opportunities to Europe` during the recent National Export Congress.  EFTA States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Philippines in Bern, Switzerland, on 28 April 2016. The EFTA-Philippines FTA entered into force on 1 June 2018 for the Philippines, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland and on 1 January 2020 for Iceland.

The studies show that coconut sugar, dried fruits, and fruit purées for fruit based beverages or as ingredients for dairy, ice-cream or confectionery as well as natural ingredients, which are indispensable components in food, cosmetics, and health products, have high export potential to EFTA and European markets. Authors point out to include narratives on sustainability, creativity, and eco-friendly production to jive with European consumer preferences.

Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Alain Gaschen said, “We are convinced that the Philippines can find the means, talent, and energy to position the country in the international stage as a supplier of innovative, attractive, and sustainable items especially in the markets of certified and ecological products. I expect to find more Philippine products in our supermarket shelves in the near future”.

This project is an example of the close economic cooperation between Switzerland and the Philippines, and is anchored on the EFTA-Philippines Free Trade Agreement implemented since 1 June 2018.

According to the study, natural ingredients are indispensable part of the international food, cosmetics and health product market and also having already shaken off the trend image for some time. It said the Philippines can become a supplier of indigenous and innovative, though traditional, natural ingredients and can therefore benefit from an international growing “natural” industry.

“The Filipino market for natural ingredients can offer a number of advantages, however, those need to be strengthened and consolidated institutionally, to also evolve into an advantage for the Filipinos engaged in cultivation, collection and processing of respective ingredients,” according to the study.

The study identified six main Philippine product groups of natural ingredients as MAPs, essential oils, oilseeds, vegetable oils, extracts, and seaweed/hydro-colloids.

The study noted that production in the Philippines is often a natural one, without chemical inputs, fields and plantations can be regarded as organic without certification – in many cases – due to lack of financial means, supply chains and lastly, know-how. Organic certification is a realistic short-term option for products from the Philippines, if given legislation, support and structures assist achieving this goal. 

“Such a development can be a door opener for the diversification of export markets,” the study said.

However, even with the step before, establishing sustainable supply chains, implementing a profound traceability system, assuring adequate cultivation, post-harvest treatment (GACP) as well as processing under simple, but standardized circumstances, are important. Additionally, pro-active communication, increasing the quality of products crucially will lead to growing interest from the European buyers’ side.

There is an obvious global tendency for market requirements to become stricter. Consumer preferences in the national market and in regional markets follow the same trends as in European high-end markets.