Philippines is considered to be an agricultural heaven with most of its population depending on rural farming and other livelihood undertakings. With the agricultural sector being one of the pillars of the economy, endeavors on maximizing the use of local commodities or crops and turning them into globally marketable products are of paramount concern. In MIMAROPA, the agricultural land area comprises almost 20 per cent of the region’s total land area, making it as one of the primary producers of agricultural and marine products such as coconut, banana, cashew, palay, corn, kalamansi, mango, and seaweed. Thses products, however, are being traded in neighboring regions as raw materials with little or no value addition.

To address this concern, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launched Food Innovation Center (FIC) across the country. FICs provide an avenue where MSMEs or local food producers can add value to existing crops through product development thus creating products that will generate strong demand in international markets. It aims to upgrade industry and MSMEs, strengthen the competitiveness of local food industry, and make regional economies grow. It is also a DOST initiative to address one of the sustainable development goals – to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation in order to achieve a sustainable and inclusive society. MIMAROPA region is among the first six regions that have already established FIC.

The infrastructure located at Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (MinSCAT) houses DOST-developed food technologies that are designed to develop new-to-the-world food products. Through the MIMAROPA FIC, the locally designed food technologies will be made available to MSMEs to ensure the products’ quality and freshness. Among such technologies are the vaccum fryer, water retort, and spray dryer. Adjunct equipment like freezer and packaging machines were also provided to the center.

These new technologies are capable of transforming wide variety of agricultural crops abundant in the region into new products of high commercial value. These locally fabricated new technologies introduced to the MSMEs can create food products that are shelf-stable even in non refrigerated conditions; improve the taste and texture of root crops, marine products, vegetables, and fruits which are palatable to buyers. It will surely create more demand for crops and develop more opportunities for farmers and fisherfolks.

MIMAROPA FIC is undergoing the product development stage and is conducting short-run production of different commodities such as the vacuum fried string beans, vaccum fried okra, vaccum fried squash, vacuum fried banana, vacuum fried jackfruit and spray dried pineapple. To make the products more appealing, MIMAROPA also provides packaging and labelling assistance to the FIC.

By: Athena Colline VErdey, DOST 4-B