THE Trade department’s export marketing arm is planning a P25-million program to connect small businesses to consumers in the United States through e-commerce.

The program, once scaled up, could enroll 5000 MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) to a digital platform and logistics services optimized for handling small-value shipments.

Department of Trade Industry Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) Director Senen M. Perlada said in a phone interview Monday that the pilot test for the program will include 10 exporters. They will be exporting small shipments falling below the threshold for duties and taxes directly to international consumers.

“They can actually do e-commerce all the way to some selected markets. These are not big shipments; these are those falling within the values that are made available by different markets.”

The program will be a partnership with start-up company eCFulfill, which can connect Philippine businesses to digital transaction services, warehouse logistics, and online marketplaces like Amazon.

The businesses in the pilot program sell mostly food products, he said.

Mr. Perlada said the initial scale-up move will be to about 200 businesses this year.

He hopes to increase this further to 5,000 MSMEs next year, with additional funding from the government’s economic stimulus package. He said the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy law could also fund logistics warehousing for businesses to expand to commercial shipments.

The 5,000 businesses would require P25 million in funding to sign on to the e-commerce program, he said.

Global consumption has, however, been declining in response to the pandemic. But Mr. Perlada said that there is some demand for business-to-consumer exports.

“That’s a transition period, because remember the idea why you want to get into these platforms, because of the analytics, nalalaman ng mga retailers (retailers find out) how products perform. They also want to do this to get a feel of what the mass market is.”

He expects strong demand for food products, especially health related goods. Gifts and houseware, he said, will see less demand.

Mr. Perlada said the e-commerce program will be gradual, as the bureau will have to assist businesses new to digital tools. — Jenina P. Ibañez