European officials visit open investment, trade opportunities | SunStar

European officials visit open investment, trade opportunities

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European officials visit open investment, trade opportunities

Sunday, April 02, 2017

DAVAO. Asif Ahmad, British Ambassador to the Philippines, said with Brexit, agricultural players in Mindanao have new opportunities in the United Kingdom. (RJ Lumawag)

OPPORTUNITIES in agriculture is seen as one of the areas for trading and investment by Europe to the Philippines after two of its officials visited Davao City last week.

Peter Szijjarto, Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Asif Ahmad, British Ambassador to the Philippines were in Davao in separate occasions.

Szijjarto was in the Philippines for the reopening of the Embassy of Hungary in Manila last March 28, 2017 and at the same time further strengthen the bilateral ties of Hungary and the Philippines. Szijjarto was in Davao City on March 27, 2017 to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador Asif Ahmad led a delegation of British businessmen to Davao City during the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines-led Trade and Investment Mission from March 30 to 31, 2017.

Both officials highlighted investment and trade opportunities between Philippines and their respective countries.

Among the potential investment and trade areas, the two officials cited, agriculture was one of them.

"There is a history of some trade between Mindanao and Europe and United Kingdom (UK) as rich source of fresh fruits and vegetables," said Ahmad.

In the presentation of Mindanao Development Authority Deputy Executive Director Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro, Mindanao exports agricultural and aquacultural products to the European Union (EU) including Switzerland and Russia. These products include mainly coconut, banana, animal and vegetable oil, fruits, fish, seaweeds, and nuts.

While both highlighted how Mindanao can be a source of fruits and vegetables, they also highlighted other opportunities for agricultural players here.

For his part, Ahmad underscored the importance of value adding agricultural products for agricultural players to be able to reach more markets in Europe.

He also said with United Kingdom leaving the EU, more opportunities present itself to agricultural players here.

"In essence, with the UK not giving notice to the EU members that we will be leaving in two years; you have a two year notice to prepare yourselves for what would be new opportunities to the UK because we will no longer be tied to the defensive agricultural interests of other European partners to whom agriculture is a vital sector," Ahmad said.

However, he clarified they will still import from agricultural nations in Europe but they are now more open to products from the Philippines.

"What I would suggest though, is you (agricultural players in Mindanao) don't just grow fresh and organic fruits and vegetables and rely on that alone. I think in value-added is that you would find it more lucrative," he said.

"At least where food is cut and mixed or processed into a new products...in that way you find that you would be accessing new markets," Ahmad added.

He also said going into high-value crops, like coffee, also offers opportunities in UK.

However, as new opportunities in Europe open for agricultural players here, there is still the challenge of distance but for Ahmad, improved connectivity and new technology play an important role for traders who wish to tap into the European market.

"Distances are shrinking rapidly. Gone are the days where everything have to go by sea," he said.

Ahmad also said there are new technologies that will delay or hasten the ripening of fruits or vegetables.

"These things are all happening and packaging is also improving where you preserve the condition of the food," he said.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said they are hoping to exchange agricultural technologies with the Philippines.

"We understand that (Philippines) would like to modernize and automatize the agriculture industry here to which Hungarian agricultural technologies could be helpful," he said.

Szijjarto also said there has already been attempts of trading agricultural products between the two countries.

"There's great interest to continue with that," he said.

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on April 03, 2017.

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