By Emily B. Bordado
NAGA CITY --- To help budding rural women agri- entrepreneurs improve their potential, regional office of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol, in partnership with the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) once more gathered about 26 women engaged in food and non-food small enterprise for entrepreneurial training and product assessment.
The training is one of the activities under the Gender Responsive Economic Action for Transformation or GREAT Women Project, Phase 2, funded by the Canadian government.
Twenty six individuals and rural women’s organizationss were invited to take part in the activity held last June 14 and 15 in a hotel in this city.
Of the 26 participants, 16 were first timers while 10 were already part of the first batch who have enrolled already with the project and entered into business contracts with various partners after being assisted by the GREAT Women project.
The first day was devoted for entrepreneurial training and industry update and the second day was for product assessment.
Mary Grace Rodriguez, OIC Chief of the DA Regional Operations Division, who represented Regional Executive Director, Dr. Elena de los Santos, underscored the importance of capacitating our agri- entrepreneurs in the light of the ASEAN Integration. She enumerated the five important elements in any business enterprise, which are: product quality, quantity, price, reliability and networking.
She also stressed the importance of value chain analysis before going into any business to determine the gaps.
Kathleen Aquino, Planning Officer 1V of the PCM, discussed the overview and objectives of the activity. Reena Francisco, owner of ECHOSI store in Makati and founder of ECHOSI Foundation discussed the current trends and food innovations s in local and global market. She shared that the food trend now is geared towards health and wellness, thus, there is a big demand for what is fresh, natural, healthy and environmentally safe products and packaging.
She added that to be competitive, entrepreneurs must not only improve their product but must do them differently. On top of the list of food commodities in big demand in fresh or processed form is mushroom followed by ginger, peanut butter, banana, dried pineapple, cacao, pickled vegetables, cassava, chili garlic, sea weeds, goto kola, dried fish/seafood and fruit wines and spirits
Meanwhile, Zarah Juan , owner of Estudio Juan tackled the topic on “Partnerships among government agencies, private sector partners and women entrepreneurs products.” She also discussed the trends or market demands in non-food commodities. the most in demand of which are bamboo, abaca bungkuan, and water hyacinth, among others.
Chef Jam Melchor of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement conducted a cooking demo on various Filipino dishes like marinated porkchop, mushroom pancit and tofu sisig using the products brought by the participants.
The 2nd day was devoted to individual product assessment done by the market and product experts from Manila.
According to Aloha Gigi Bañaria, DA Bicol Regional Gender and Development (GAD) Focal person and Chief of the Planning and Monitoring Division, this activity could result to improved products and may eventually lead to market agreements, product promotion and securing contract just like what happened after the product assessment for the batch of women entrepreneurs in 2016.
Bernadette de los Santos of Bidibidi Enterprise based in Baao, Camarines Sur has now 2 shops in Palawan and displays her products at the Avenue Plaza Hotel. Karen Arellano, president of Nasipit Rural Improvement Club in Sorsogon City has signed a contract with Citimalls to supply coco jam and atchara to all their branches. The Labo Progressive Multipurpose Cooperative, on the other hand, had clinched a multi-million peso contract with two state universities in Bicol to supply Salampay fabric for the graduating students.
Meanwhile, Adel Magsino of Goa, Camarines Sur has tied up with the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture for the development of her mushroom crunch products.