Chili is a hot business
Last July 4 to 5, we went to the second Annual Festival of Chili Heads Philippines.
From what we saw, we are convinced that chili is indeed a rapidly growing hot business.
Though it was held only in the home in Quezon City of chili advocate Daisy Langeneger, the intense interest and contagious spirit of new entrepreneurs filled the air.
The chili products sold briskly. Stories were shared of unknown chili-mix producers who had expanded their sales and outlets significantly as a result of last year’s exhibition. The same success is expected for the new exhibitors this year.
This all started in February last year.
Ponchit Ponce-Enrile (0917-3001054) met with six other chili aficionados and set up a Philippine Chili Facebook.
The overwhelming response motivated them to conduct the first festival last year, which they followed up last weekend.
Today, the seven-member group has expanded to 3,000 members. Sixty of them come from other countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Italy, Spain and the United States.
Ponce-Enrile told me that there are only two chili varieties in the Philippines: The small spicy labuyo and the larger, less spicy pansigang.
When he traveled abroad two years ago, he found out there were many other kinds of chili, each with its own appeal.
For example, there is an Indian chili that is 20 times more spicy than labuyo.
These chili varieties, when combined with our native chili in an innovative way, can create a unique delicious taste that is highly marketable.
Ponce-Enrile’s group not only shares chili knowledge but also plants.
At the Chili Festival, we tasted unique chili combinations that were much better and cost much less than the imported chili products in our supermarkets.
This means we can not only replace these imports, but also export these products to take advantage of the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Here are two examples from the festival that show chili’s promise as a hot business.
The first involves Persons With Disability (PWDs). UNLAD-PWD president Marcial Angkok has cerebral palsy. However, this has not prevented him from creating his own delicious brand of chili salsa.
It used to be a one-person operation. But last year, with a P50,000 grant from USAID, 20 PWDs now work every day on his chili product during peak season.
UNLAD-PWD treasurer Daniel Carpio said that UNLAD was now making good money.
At the festival, their chili mix was selling at P60 per 100 gram bottle.
Looking at the other alternatives that were selling well, their pricing could have been doubled and still be less expensive than the alternatives.
It showed the need for business advice so that the PWDs could double their revenues. And since their capital equipment can easily produce five times the current volume with better marketing, employment can increase by five times and sales by 10 times!
The second example is a fledgling enterprise that had its first marketing exposure at the festival.
It was nurtured as a chili business at the Enchanted Farm of Gawad Kalinga.
The three-person team is composed of Auie Anatalio (0906-4079130) with her sister Alyssa and Martin Nunga.
Last year, Auie went to Thailand and Cambodia. She discovered the booming chili business with several varieties. When she came back to the Philippines, she found only two varieties.
With her partners, Auie developed a chili spread that combines Philippine and Taiwanese chili, together with calamansi, tomato and other ingredients.
It was an instant hit at the festival, selling for only P200 for a 5-ounce bottle. She also got good suggestions from the festival visitors which she plans to apply to make her products even better.
Examples are to lessen the acidity by decreasing the vinegar content and improving the texture by adding more chunks.
Asean integration is in full swing by December of this year.
If we do not respond quickly and appropriately, we will become a nation of food importers with decreased food security and increased poverty.
Ponce-Enrile and his group of seven, together with Langeneger who generously lent her house to conduct this festival for the last two years, should be commended. This festival proved its worth by enabling its exhibitors to grow, expand and create more jobs.
This year will be no different, with UNLAD and the three young entrepreneurs following the precedent of last year’s successful exhibitors.
All of this was done without any government support.
In Asean integration, there is still no level playing field. While the tariffs have been leveled at near-zero, the agriculture subsidies of our neighboring countries are much more than ours.
The only way to compensate for this uneven playing field is to allow the creativity of our entrepreneur to flourish and grow.
The government should now identify other groups like Chili Heads Philippines and support them in finding and helping Filipino agri-entrepreneurs.
It is they who will help provide the jobs we sorely need, ensure food security, decrease poverty and be our best allies for inclusive growth.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112).
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