IN THE bid to help “otopreneurs” or producers of one-town, one-product (Otop) in the province, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Negros Occidental has opened a six-month trade fair at a mall in Bacolod City.
DTI-Negros Occidental Officer-In-Charge Rachel Nufable, on the sidelines of the opening rites at the Ground Floor of Ayala Malls Capitol Central Thursday, October 14, 2021, said the event is dubbed “Otop Provincial Trade Fair.”
Aside from being the longest trade fair in Negros Occidental so far, Nufable said, it is also the first time for the province to have a trade fair intended specifically for Otop producers.
The event, she said, is a trial run for the establishment of a permanent home for Negrense MSME products aside from the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) Hub, also beside the Provincial Capitol.
“Through this special trade fair, we aim to help local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) recover from the ill effects of the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic,” she said, adding that “as the economy starts to reopen, this is a welcome opportunity for our producers to reach more buyers, especially people in the mall.”
The trade fair running until April 2022 showcases a wide variety of products under various industries like food, homestyle, wearables and furniture, among others.
Initially, it gathered 31 “otopreneurs” from different cities and municipalities in the province, who have been assisted by the DTI and are registered under its Otop Next Gen program.
Nufable said there are news MSMEs assisted through the different training of the agency, who are now joining the trade fair.
So it is now a sort of market test for them, she said, stressing that they have been leveling up the definition of Otop.
“These are the products with high potential to level up their markets, from the barangay to urban centers,” Nufable said, adding that these are next-generation products that can be promoted at the regional and national level.
The six-month trade fair is in partnership with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental and Ayala Malls Capitol Central.
It is themed “Resiliency. Recovery. Rebuilding.”
As most of the MSMEs have stopped operating due to the pandemic, Nufable said there’s a need to teach them to be resilient by overcoming whatever crisis that may arise.
Also, they have to recover and then rebuild their enterprises through one, developing other product lines based on their available resources, manpower and marketplace, the DTI official said.
“So we really need to help the MSMEs who are really the ones moving the economy. We have so many producers in Negros and we have a lot of potentials because we have abundant raw materials,” she said, adding that “we need to assist our entrepreneurs by providing this marketing venue for them.”
For her part, DTI-Negros Occidental Senior Trade and Industry Development Specialist Gerin Vergara explained that the Otop Provincial Trade Fair focuses more on facilitating access to market.
Vergara, also the industry development unit supervisor and designated trade promotion officer, said the trade fair is positioned to help both “otopreneurs” who have been enrolled in the Otop Next Gen for almost four years or the “big brothers” and the “bagong sibol” or those newly registered in the program.
“We are focusing more on product and market development. So if ever some otopreneurs have potential but need help especially on the product design, we assist them through our program consultants,” she added.
Recognizing that selling the products at the mall is quite expensive for entrepreneurs, the DTI took charge of the rentals with a share from the “big brothers.”
Vergara said mall-goers and buyers can expect more new products in the coming days as the program’s product development component continues while the trade fair is ongoing.
After the design consultancy, if the products of the MSMEs passed the qualifications, they will be allowed to display their prototypes at the trade fair, Vergara said.
“We continue to motivate our otopreneurs, especially the new ones, to produce more, utilize our abundant raw materials and value-add,” she added.
As they assured compliance to the minimum health protocols at the trade fair venue, the DTI officials urged Negrenses to “support local and buy local” especially during this pandemic.