By Elaine Cotoner | DTI-Export Marketing Bureau

A market study found that coconut, calamansi, carrageenan, and moringa have big potential in European markets. Other Philippine agricultural products cited were ube, turmeric, butterfly pea flower, and the elemi tree. The demand is driven by healthy lifestyle choices and using natural ingredients in manufacturing cosmetics and medicines.

“We invite all Philippine producers of the mentioned natural ingredients to take the leap and start exporting. If you have apprehensions, the DTI-Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) will help you become export-ready and connect you with foreign buyers,” said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Abdulgani M. Macatoman. 

The study entitled “Market Intelligence EFTA for the Philippines” was conducted in 2020 by the Swiss Import Promotion Program (SIPPO), in partnership with the DTI-EMB and the Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines. Results of the study were first presented in DTI-EMB’s Usapang Exports last 2 December. 

The three-part study looked into the viability of Philippine textiles, natural ingredients, and processed food to the European market, especially to European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The Philippines and ETFA signed a free trade agreement that has been in full force since 1 January 2020.  


According to the study, virgin coconut oil (VCO) demand in Europe has grown in recent years due to healthy diets, vegan lifestyles, and awareness of the harm palm oil production does to the environment. The Philippines is the world’s main producer of VCO and the second-largest producer of coconut products after Indonesia. 

Desiccated coconut also has a big European market since it’s used as a baking ingredient. The European Union is the world’s largest importer of desiccated coconut, accounting for more than 30% of global imports. Leading importing countries are the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

The Philippines exports VCO to 50 countries. As of November 2020, annual exports of VCO amounted to US$74 million. Switzerland is the only EFTA country included in the list which imported US$ 14,000 worth of VCO in the time period. 

For desiccated coconut, the country exported US$234 million to 81 countries. Only 0.3% of which went to EFTA countries Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland. 


Calamansi is new to the European market but has the potential to be mainstream. The fruit is used as a souring ingredient and touted as an immune booster. Calamansi juice is also considered an exciting discovery as a flavoring to food and beverages. 

Calamansi is an emerging export product, with the Philippine exports only at US$60,000 in January to November 2020. Exports were recorded for 10 countries, with no exports to EFTA yet. 


Carrageenan has strong demand in European markets because of its wide range of applications. It’s used as a gelling agent in dairy products and thickeners to beverages, sauces, and syrups. The Philippines is the largest producer of carrageenan, accounting for around 77% of the global supply.

Global export of carrageenan amounted to US$147 million in January to November 2020, with EFTA exports making up 0.85%.


The study points out that moringa has high financial potential if the quality is appropriate for export. The plant’s leaves (dried or powder) and oil are allowed for food applications in Europe. 

For food supplements, organic certification is often required. Prospective markets for moringa are Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. 

Company website now a must

The COVID-19 pandemic made paper brochures obsolete and company websites crucial. The study recommended having a company website with detailed product information, including documentation, specifications, and hi-res product photos.

In a previous press release by the Embassy, Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen said that he is “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.” 

For export assistance, email the DTI-Export Marketing Bureau at The bureau is the primary export promotion arm of the DTI. DTI-EMB offers product consultation, market intelligence, business matching sessions, among others. 

View the entire study here. ♦