DAVAO Region's chocolate products will take center stage at the upcoming Sabah International Expo 2023, an event designed to provide a platform for exhibitors and businesses to showcase their latest offerings from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (Bimp-Eaga) member countries.

Anelyn Binancilan, assistant division chief of the Investments Promotions Division for the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), announced that the chocolate products from Davao City and Davao del Sur will be prominently featured at SIE 2023, scheduled to run from September 21 to 24 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), cacao production in the Philippines experienced a slight decline in the first quarter of 2023, dropping from 2,380 metric tons in the same period in 2022 to 2,350 metric tons this year. 

However, the Davao region contributed substantially, accounting for 1,800 metric tons, or 76.7 percent, of the total cacao production. The remaining 23.3 percent was produced by the other 15 regions across the country.

In addition to chocolate products, the expo will showcase various banana-based items, including banana chips and banana flour, and coconut-based products, such as coconut sugar. Davao City will also offer tour packages.

"We are bringing along banana-based products, particularly banana chips and banana flour, and we also have coconut-based products like coco sugar and its other derivatives, and chocolate products from our cacao producers here in Davao Region," Binancilan said during Habi at Kape held on Wednesday, September 13.

She said Mindanao aims to highlight its strengths and present its latest value-added products in the market during SIE. 

She also said that MinDA aims to compete internationally by featuring organic products, including internationally compliant Halal products.

MinDA, according to her, also seeks to enhance trade relations between Mindanao and Sabah. 

Sabah views Mindanao as a "supplier of raw products" with little added value. She explained that Malaysia has been more innovative with raw products, such as rubber for making tires and gloves, compared to the Philippines.

Assistant Regional Director Romeo Castañaga of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Davao Region underscored that the expo's scope extends beyond Sabah. With nearly 20 participating countries, exhibitors aim to target the Bimp-Eaga market and other nations attending the event.

He said the Philippines' goal at events like SIE is to explore opportunities beyond the Bimp-Eaga region and foster collaboration among member countries.

Binancilan disclosed that some 25 delegates from Mindanao and Palawan will participate in SIE, aiming to boost trade exports and establish new business opportunities with countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. ICE