PHILIPPINE imports of processed vegetables are expected to increase with domestic production unable to meet demand, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to a report by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Philippine annual vegetable deficit is about 1.4 million metric tons (MT) in wet weight through at least 2030.

It attributed the deficit to the lack of post-harvest facilities and a decline in available farmland.

“Additionally, the country faces the challenge of approximately 20 typhoons annually, which pose a significant threat to the supply of vegetables,” the USDA said.

The report added that to address the deficit in vegetable supply, imports of processed vegetables “presents a viable solution.”

It said that stakeholders must also focus on reducing the cost of inter-island shipping and enhance the cold chain network.

“These measures will ensure efficient transportation and proper storage of intermediate and prepared processed vegetable products across the Philippine islands,” it said.

Citing government data, the USDA said that Philippines imported 160,000 metric tons (MT) of fresh vegetables and 405,000 MT of processed vegetables in 2022. Such imports have grown 17% and 6%, respectively, over the past 10 years.

“Even if this growth were to be sustained, it would still be inadequate to meet the demand of a rapidly growing population and the government’s goal of promoting greater vegetable consumption,” it added.

Additionally, the USDA said that there is a significant opportunity for the US processed vegetable industry to increase its exports to the Philippines.

“(Processed) vegetables that have the best prospects are the vegetables varieties that are not extensively produced locally…cooking staples like garlic and onions, which are susceptible to price shocks, and those that offer convenience and wellness present excellent opportunities,” it said.

The FAS added that the food service, retail, and processing sectors in the Philippines also show potential for increased take-up of processed vegetables.

US exports to the Philippines include frozen potatoes, potato chips, onion powder, garlic powder, canned pulses, peppers, pickled vegetables, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and prepared mixed vegetables. — Adrian H. Halili