31 July 2018

Published also in Business Mirror

AMONG the many palatable attractions at the 12th edition of the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines was the pavilion of the project called “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agro-Biodiversity in the Traditional Agro-Ecosystems of the Philippines [Agro-Biodiveristy Project].”

A collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Agricultural Research, and the municipalities of Hingyon and Hungduan (both in Ifugao province) and Lake Sebu (South Cotabato), this initiative aims to enhance, expand and sustain the dynamic conservation practices that support globally significant agro-biodiversity in traditional agro-ecosystems of the Philippines. A total of 12 communities in Ifugao and five in Lake Sebu directly benefited from this project.

Jose Luis Fernandez, FAO representative in the Philippines, said the success of this initiative will greatly contribute to the country’s food security. “First of all, we need to understand that a nutritionally adequate diet must be composed of a variety of foods. Biodiversity contributes significantly to this variety. The conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture are key to ensuring that the world will produce enough food to feed its growing population in the future.”

With the end-view of test-marketing the products and benchmarking these against others already in the market, the FAO pavilion at IFEX 2018 showcased the processed products from agro-biodiversity crops (taro, yam, tomato and ginger) produced by the Tuwali Indigenous Peoples of Ifugao and T’boli Indigenous Peoples of Lake Sebu such as various flavors of banana and taro chips, rice and taro cookies, as well as ginger pastillas and candies.

The tomato jellied candy (gummy candy) was a bestseller. One buyer was interested to supply these tomato jelly candies to schools. Traditional varieties of rice (the premium tinawon, imbuukan, minaangan and diket rice) cultivated in the rice terraces in Higyon and Hungduan by the Ifugaos were also available. T’nalak fabric and T’nalak-based abaca items were also bestsellers.  The Manila Collectibles Co. bought the Ifugao and Tinalak fabric for their store in Intramuros.

On the whole, the participation of the Agro-Biodiveristy Project in IFEX 2018 was a success as it provided the project beneficiaries with hands-on, actual buyer-seller interaction.

IFEX Philippines, organized by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the export promotion arm of the Department of Trade and Industry, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, is the country’s biggest international trade exhibition on the Philippines’ and Asia’s ethnic and specialty food, tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, beverages, bakery and confectionery products, meat and poultry, halal-certified products as well as natural, organic and healthy food products, among others.