CACAO products from Davao de Oro. — COMVALP FB PAGE

DAVAO DE ORO agricultural commodities could do well in South Korea market if producers bolster their research and development and ensure stable supply and delivery, a trade official said.

“I challenge MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) to look into R&D… Unless we have a strong R&D, we will continue to be dependent on foreign investors, and foreign investors are also more attracted to countries with strong R&D,” Jose Ma. S. Dinsay, commercial counsellor of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Seoul, said during the two-day hybrid Davao de Oro Investment Conference 2021 last week.

He cited coconut and cacao as among the province’s products that can be developed for further export.

“Coconut has one of the biggest potentials… coconut oil and dried coconuts, and activated carbon,” he said, noting that these goods are already among the main agricultural commodities being shipped to South Korea.

“If we develop our own technology and new products for coconut, the opportunity is big… in food and wellness,” he added.

For cacao, which is intercropped with coconut in parts of the Davao Region, Mr. Dinsay said the commodity’s footprint in the South Korean market is limited.

One recently-launched product is Yelo Yolo cacao chips, produced in Davao Region and marketed by a South Korean firm. The brand also offers cacao cookies, as well as coconut, cassava and banana chips.

“Now trying to introduce cacao to South Korea. There is a growing trend for chocolate because of the café market,” he said.

In the fresh banana sector, he said there is a growing demand for organic, which is currently dominated by Peru.

The Philippines is one of South Korea’s top Cavendish banana suppliers and will enjoy zero tariffs in five years following the recent signing of a bilateral free trade agreement.

At the Davao City business chamber’s separate Davao Investment Conference also held last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez emphasized the significance of the trade deal.

“This is a major win considering that this has been a long negotiation of about two years, so that we can fast-track for a very good market access of bananas entering the South Korean market and also preserve our exports to South Korea,” he said.

“We will see more of Korea in the years to come,” he added.

Mr. Dinsay also noted potential South Korea-Davao de Oro collaboration in coffee, aquaculture, and mining.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Davao de Oro office is also encouraging the development of new agricultural ventures such as adlai, free-range chicken, poultry farming, sorghum, and cassava.

Speakers representing these industries, including a cooperative and San Miguel Foods, Inc., gave briefings on opportunities for potential investors.

“We are highlighting industries that are promising and providing good returns for our investors, most especially in this time of crisis,” DTI-Davao de Oro Provincial Director Lucky Siegfred M. Balleque said during the forum.

“With the combined activities, the organizers hope to generate at least P500 million in investment for new and expansion projects, assist 50 investors and more than 200 existing and potentials MSMEs and create more than a thousand jobs respectively,” he added. — Marifi S. Jara and Maya M. Padillo