THE International Food Exchange (IFEX), is going to run from May 24 to 26 in the World Trade Center Manila, and if you are going remember the following seven words: banana, cacao, coffee, coconut, mango, pineapple, and tuna. These, according to the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), are the country’s Premium 7. The Premium 7 were selected as the country’s top food exports, based on supply, according to CITEM’s Executive Director Pauline Juan.

The products were presented at a degustacion last week at the Philippine International Convention Center, prepared by chef Bea Nitard of Via Mare who wanted the flavors to be immediately recognizable to buyers and the buying public at an installation by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) when IFEX opens later this week. The dishes included clasics such as champorrado (sweet chocolate rice porridge), rice and inasal (barbecued chicken), crab fat with rice, turon (fried banana roll), puto bumbong (a rice cake), an open-faced mango salad, spicy chocolate ginger bombs, all capped with a cup of civet coffee.

The theme for this year is “Nxtfood Asia,” with Ms. Juan saying, “We are hoping to sell Philippines cuisine as the next big Asian food trend.”

There will be quite a number of exhibitors this year, clocking in at about 520. A large chunk of the exhibitors would be MSMEs (micro, small, medium enterprises), as per a thrust of the DTI. There will also be a small contingent of international vendors, especially from the region. “We really extended all support for MSMEs,” noted Ms. Juan. “Our biggest exporters come from the food sector,” she also pointed out.

While the government has many programs in place to help MSMEs (Ms. Juan, for example, mentions projects that directly benefit cacao and coconut farmers), what can the normal consumer do to contribute to that economy? The answer is simple: spend.

“If there’s no demand from consumers, then our MSMEs as suppliers will not have any [reason] to sell.”

IFEX will run from May 24 to 26, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Trade buyers and government employees can enter for free, while admission is P100 for the public, save for students, PWDs, and senior citizens, with tickets priced at P80. — J.L. Garcia