NAGA CITY – To capacitate budding and potential  rural women agri- entrepreneurs the Department of Agriculture Bicol in partnership with the  Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) once more gathered  about 26 women entrepreneurs and  engaged in food and non-food  small enterprise for entrepreneurial training and product assessment.  This is one of the activities under the Gender  Responsive Economic  Action for Transformation or GREAT Women Project, Phase 2  funded by the Canadian government.

Twenty six  individual and  rural women’s organization were invited  to take  part in this year’s activity held in one of the hotels in this city on  June 14 and 15.  Of the 26 participants,  16 of which are  first timers while 10 of them were already  part of the first batch  which enrolled already  with the project and have already  business  contracts with various partners after being assisted by the GREAT Women project.

The first day was  devoted for  entrepreneurial training and industry update and the second day was  for product assessment.   Mary Grace Rodriguez, OIC Chief of the DA Regional Operations Division, who represented Regional Executive Director, Dr. Elena de los Santos  underscored the importance of  capacitating our agri- entrepreneurs in the light of the ASEAN  Integration.   She   enumerated the five important  elements in any business enterprise  which are: product quality, quantity, price, reliability and networking.    She also stressed the importance of value chain analysis before going into any business to determine the gaps.

Kathleen Aquino, Planning Officer 1V of the PCM discussed the overview and objectives of the activity.  Reena Francisco , owner of ECHOSI store in Makati  and founder of ECHOSI foundation  discussed the current trends and food innovations s in local and global market.   She shared that the food trend now is geared towards health and wellness  thus, there is a big demand for what is fresh, natural, healthy and environmentally safe products and packaging.

She  added that to be competitive an entrepreneurs must not only improve  their   product but must do them  differently. On top of the list of food  commodities in big demand in fresh or processed form  is mushroom followed by ginger, peanut butter, banana, dried  pineapple, cacao, pickled vegetables, cassava, chili garlic, sea weeds, goto kola, dried fish/seafood and fruit wines and spirits

Meanwhile,  Zarah Juan , owner of Estudio Juan  tackled the topic on “Partnerships among government agencies, private sector partners and  women entrepreneurs  products.”  She also   discussed the  trends or market demands in non-food commodities the most in demand of which are  bamboo, abaca bungkuan, water hyacinth among others.

Chef  Jam Melchor of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement  conducted  a cooking demo  on various Filipino dishes like marinated porkchop, mushroom pancit and tofu sisig  using the products brought by the participants.

The 2nd day was devoted to individual product assessment done by the market and product experts  from  Manila.  According to Aloha Gigi Bañaria, DA Bicol Regional Gender and Development (GAD) Focal person and Chief of the Planning and Monitoring Division, this activity  could result to  improved products  and may eventually  lead to  market agreements,  product promotion  and  securing  contract  just like what happened   after  the product assessment for the  batch of women  entrepreneurs  in 2016. Bernadette de los Santos of Bidibidi Enterprise  based in Baao, Camarines Sur  has now 2 shops  in Palawan and displays her products at the Avenue Plaza Hotel.  Karen Arellano, president of Nasipit Rural Improvement Club in Sorsogon City has signed a contract with Citimalls to supply coco jam and atchara  to all their branches.  The Labo Progressive Multipurpose cooperative  on the other hand  had clinched a multi-million peso contract with two state universities in Bicol to supply Salampay  fabric for the graduating students.  Meanwhile, Adel  Magsino of  Goa, Camarines Sur  has tied up with the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture  for the development of her mushroom crunch products.  (Emily B. Bordado/DA-RAFISV)