DAVAO CITY — Dabawenyo Capsicum, a group of manufacturers of chili pepper products, said bureaucracy remains their biggest stumbling block despite the strong support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“We need government support when it comes to the processing of papers, especially with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Grace M. Sebanes, social media marketing head of Dabawenyo Capsicum Home of Spices, told BusinessWorld in an interview.
Ms. Sebanes said the DTI-Davao office (DTI-11) has been helping the sector grow since it launched the Program to Accelerate Building Livelihood Opportunities in Davao Oriental, which was launched in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha),which struck parts of Davao Region in December 2012.
DTI-11 encouraged the planting of chili peppers as these are easy to grow and can be harvested after four months. The department has also been assisting farmers develop value-added products, along with marketing schemes, through the hot chili project.
“The DTI program covers training in Good Manufacturing Practices and Food Safety to prepare processors for registration with the FDA; it also includes support through Shared Service Facilities,” DTI-11 Regional Director Ma. Belenda Q. Ambi said.
“We just hope that other agencies like the FDA will also be more MSMEs-friendly in terms of the budget and processing of papers,” Ms. Sebanes said.
Members of Dabawenyo Capsicum have started the process of registering their products with the FDA, but cannot proceed without a specified facility.
“We are small entrepreneurs and we cannot afford to put all our capital in just one area such as a facility like the one they require,” she said.
“We are also faced with the challenge of getting more funding especially now that we have opened up the Dabawenyo Capsicum Store and we invested money for renovation,” she added.
Dabawenyo Capsicum is composed of nine brands, all from the Davao Region. These are: ABJ Herbs Condiments and Spices, Arkadyo Pepper Sauce, Chilloy’s Gourmet, Ellie’s Premium Sukang Tuba, GKT Homemade Food Products, Pastil Queen, Test Kitchen, Yummy Kimchi, and Pedas Gila.
The group is now preparing to establish a cooperative and set up its own facilities to obtain an FDA registration.
“I wouldn’t accept the term backyard, but we are start-ups,” she said, with most of the members being home-based.
“All of us are chili enthusiasts who regularly meet during trade exhibits so we decided to form the group to market all our products as one,” she said.
One of the group’s goals is to increase the income of local chili farmers, expand distribution nationwide, and eventually export their products.
“Our advocacy is to help as many local farmers and since our main ingredient is chili. We buy directly from farmers and do away with third parties so the farmers get more income from their produce,” Ms. Sebanes said.
Despite challenges, she said sales are growing via the shop and trade fairs as well as the positive feedback from buyers.
“We personally test the shelf life of our products; our quality is our only guarantee,” she said. — Carmencita A. Carillo