THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Philippine exhibitors participating in the 20th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) generated sales of $8.68 million.

At a briefing late Tuesday, Trade Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BoI) Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said that most of the exhibitors sold out at the expo.

Mr. Rodolfo said the main issue facing the exhibitors appears to be generating sufficient volume to bring to market.

“If you bring them to market, there is a market, what is also very interesting here is that the price point in this expo is very much higher versus how they sell it in the Philippines,” he added.

In this year’s CAEXPO, the Philippines brought in 15 exhibitors, much less than the 51 participants in the 2019 trade show, which was the last physical gathering for the expo before the pandemic.

Mr. Rodolfo said that although the exhibitors in the three-day event were not able to beat the sales booked in 2019 of $12.8 million, they were still able to beat the 2019 average sales per exhibitor, which doubled to P33 million.

The DTI’s Guangzhou-based Commercial Officer, Froilan Emil D. Pamintuan, said sales could grow further as the trade show will continue online.

“Based on our previous experience, some of the exporters and exhibitors still manage to declare some follow-through numbers because they’re still in the process of discussions with contacts. So, it is not impossible that the total sales will increase as more will come out of the follow-up discussions,” Mr. Pamintuan said.

The sales were based on the results of eight exhibitors, with the remainder yet to file their reports.

The goods brought to the trade show included fresh and processed durian products, banana chips, calamansi juice, and liniment.

Mr. Pamintuan said Chinese buyers have expressed interest in Philippine durian products.

“In southern China, we encountered some potential buyers who were seeking possible durian supply, but Philippine suppliers had capacity constraints,” he said.

Mr. Rodolfo said Philippine producers should address the supply issue to maintain or improve market share in China.

“There is a tremendous potential for durian. If you look at the Chinese market, there are two dominant fruits that they import, bananas in terms of volume … and in terms of value, durian,” Mr. Rodolfo said.

“We are number one in bananas for the China market … (but) right now, durian is being dominated by Thailand and Vietnam. So, our target really is to be able to have the same dominance in the durian market that we are currently enjoying in the banana market,” he added.

The BoI said measures that could improve Philippine output include more processing facilities, larger farm plots, and new technology to facilitate exports of frozen agricultural products.

In January, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed an agreement with President Xi Jinping to provide market access for the Philippine fresh durian industry.

“Right now, the protocol that has been signed which provided market access for durian from Philippines to China only involves fresh durian, so frozen durian products are not yet included,” Mr. Pamintuan said. — Justine Irish D. Tabile