MANILA, Philippines -- The organic industry, like its harvest in sweltering summer, is still growing despite the harsh economic climate.
This was shared by a group of green-minded entrepreneurs in a recent gathering of organic food producers at the EchoStore in Serendra Piaza, Taguig City.
Industry leaders and new converts to the green side brought fresh ideas to the table and offered insights to this cottage industry.
?It?s ever growing,? says Mara Pardo de Tavera, who started the organic buzz in the metro 15 years ago with her company, the Organic Galaxy. ?People are now going for quality to get the full value of their money.?
And there?s room for 30 to 40 percent growth so far, she added.
?When people tell me ... there?s a crisis, I really find it hard to believe, because every Sunday, people still buy like crazy,? she added, citing the number of people who flock to her Sunday Market on Legaspi Street, in Makati City.
Rosalina Tan, an organic fertilizer producer also for the last 15 years, shares the same sentiment, although she prefers to focus by region.
?Mommy Lina,? as Tan is fondly called, is the founder of the Organic Producers and Trade Association with nationwide organic farmer members.
She adheres to the organic marketing principle to ?buy organic produce closest to the community and meet the local demand.?
?We want to concentrate on the regions and then in Manila,? Tan said.
Pardo de Tavera agreed, saying that they can help the farmers better if they ?avoid middlemen,? and if they can provide a system where farmers themselves ?supply in a regular market.?
When organic produce are made accessible in every region, this means a decrease in carbon footprint since lesser fuel will have been used in transporting the harvest to the market.
The Philippines is also known to export its processed organic products to India, China, Vietnam, and even the United States, Japan and Europe.
From muscovado sugar and malunggay (Moringa oleifera)-based beauty products to lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) spa oils, the list goes on, showing the Filipinos? ingenuity in bringing nature?s rewards in environment-friendly packages.
The state-run Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, the main carrier of Philippine harvest to other countries, reported a slower growth for exports this year due to the economic downturn.
Citem reported that the export of organic products peaked in 2000. However, a consensus has been reached that, although growth may be slowing down, there has been no decline in total volume.
The organic movement also faces a different set of problems in terms of production. Since they do not use pesticides and chemicals in their products, the crops are handled differently compared to conventional harvests.
?We?re going to feel the crunch because the weather is strange now,? said Pardo de Tavera. ?It?s raining when it shouldn?t be raining. That affects production.?
For Essencia Lemon Grass oils producer Lilia Pelayo, people who were unaware of her organic ways posed a different problem.
She said that she was asked to leave her land in Kalinga Apayao because the locals thought she was a treasure hunter in the highlands.
She said she had to relocate her plant to Cagayan, where the climate is also suitable for lemon grass production.
Another main concern is the certification. Many organic producers find it difficult to mass produce because ?there are a lot of impediments?certification is expensive [and] there?s farm history where you ask the farmers to sit and write,? Pardo de Tavera said.
According to Tan, the process has three phases: ?We should start in conversion, then transition, then be certified. But in the current market accreditation, there is a section that one cannot label a product organic unless certified.?
Determined to make the organic movement relevant to Filipinos, Pardo de Tavera and Tan are among the pioneers of bringing organic food production to Metro Manila.
They both advocate and provide an alternative among all natural food selection. Their families support them in their quest for going all-natural.
The awareness is now growing into the mainstream consciousness. In fact, a number of new organic lifestyle converts have also turned green living into their livelihood.
Joy Dimabuyu of DS Pinoy Moringa is one of them.
She traveled for two years around the country. She was assigned to remote areas and had root crops for merienda since there were no restaurants.
When she got back to Manila, she craved for fresh produce.
Dimabuyu?s approach is different: she incorporates awareness in her clients to avoid a bandwagon approach to the business. She teaches her clients to grow their own wellness garden, with malunggay as the star crop.
She has processed malunggay, turning it into capsules, soaps and even hair spa.
The organic movement is now part of her being.
?If you are what you eat and you don?t know what you eat, then you don?t know who you are,? said Dimabuyu.