TO help local food processors become competitive in an integrated Asean Economic Community, the Department of Science and Technology announced that it will open the Regional Food Innovation Center next month stationed at the Cebu Institute of Technology University (CITU).

The center, according to DOST Assistant Sec. Raymond Liboro, will serve as a venue for food processors to innovate and improve their products.

“With these facilities, DOST is pushing the country’s food manufacturing industry to be at par with that of neighboring Asean countries by the time the Asean economic integraton rolls in 2015,” said Liboro, who spoke in behalf of DOST Sec. Mario Montejo during the Technology Expo and Entrepreneurship Conference held yesterday at the Cebu City Mariott Hotel.

Equipment

He said the center will allow MSME food processors to avail of modern equipment and extensive training on food processing techniques.

Some of the machinery and equipment available for use include a vacuum fryer, a machine designed to fry food in deep fat under reduced pressure. Vaccum fried foods include potato chips, durian, pineapple, kiwi, and others.

Other equipment include an immersion freezer, which serves as a freezing agent for food products like meat and vegetables that are submerged in cold liquid; and a spray dryer that turns liquids into powder used in making milk powder, coffee, spices and flavorings.

Locally-sourced

There will also be a vacuum packaging machine, which removes air before sealing food products in retort pouches.

DOST 7 Director Edilberto Paradela said all the equipment for food processing are locally-sourced and are currently in Manila. Provincial Director Tristan Abando added that the equipment and accessories will cost around P3.5 million. The building will be provided by CITU.

Services

Liboro said MSMEs that are into food manufacturing can avail of support services from the center like product and process development, food testing, shelf life and sensory evaluation, consultancy, packaging, and labelling, among others.

Further development

In addition, the center is also aimed at helping the MSMEs come up with innovative and add-on products based on the major products in the region. Paradela said DOST 7 is initially looking at producing 250 to 300 new food products one year after opening the food innovation center. However, he said this could still change.

“The Department envisions a small or medium scale food processor from a region outside Manila to eventually be able to compete with the best food processing companies in the world,” Liboro said.

The food processing industry faces challenging times with the Asean integration. More products from neighboring countries are expected to flood the local scene due to the lowering of trade barriers.