THE Philippine Food Processing Industry is one of the major components in the manufacturing sector. It accounts for a significant portion not only in terms of revenue generation but also in terms of employment.
And this is also true all over the country including Western Visayas. The significance is deeper than that as our food sector has a very strong backward linkage with the aquaculture and agriculture sectors.
According to Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-6 Regional Director Rowen R. Gelonga, “If you can strengthen the food sector, we can also be enabling and enhancing the well-being of our farmers, fisherfolks and other people that supply the materials needed for food processing.”
Despite the major contributions of the food sector particularly the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in our economy, it is constrained by various factors among which are lack of product innovation, weak human resource capability, and high production costs.
One major problem cited by Gelonga is that the food industry is skill-based, not technology-based.
“People know how to bake bread, but we do not understand baking science and that is a major constraint for product innovation. In baking, for example, the moment you change the formula and ingredients everything is gone because we do not know the science and technology behind sardines, behind pandesal, etc.” Gelonga said.
Recognizing all the development constraints of the food sector, not only in Region 6 but in the entire country, the DOST established Food Innovation Centers (FICs) in different regions.
One of the FICs is the Western Visayas Food Innovation Center (WVFIC) at the Guimaras State College, Mosqueda Campus. Primarily, FIC is intended to come up with more product innovations in the food sector by coming up with research and development (R&D) projects and strengthen human resource.
In his speech during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the WV Food Innovation Network (Food-iNet), Gelonga said “You cannot come up with good researchers unless you produce BS Food Technology graduates. Although we are talking here of research, essentially, we are talking here of the entire ecosystem of the food sector. Even if we started our FIC here at the GSC, we have come to recognize that there are so many other stakeholders in the region that are very competent also to join this collective effort to develop the food sector.”
He added that while there are various other stakeholders in food R&D and innovation in the region which need to be tapped, there is also a need to rationalize R&D activities as well as encourage collaborative efforts and undertakings and R&D should also be supportive to the regional development directions and priorities.
Food-iNet aims to improve the food sector in Region VI and accelerate their competitiveness by establishing a network of R&D Centers in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)/Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) and capacitate them to undertake quality research that will promote regional development.
Food-iNet was instituted by the Department of Science and Technology Region VI (DOST VI) with the different Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) namely, University of the Philippines in the Visayas – School of Technology (UPV-SOTECH) as the lead researcher and together with other SUCs focusing on different field of specializations – Guimaras State College, UPV Institute of Fish Processing Technology (IFPT), Capiz State University, Central Philippine University, Aklan State University and University of Antique.
For the initial development and operation of the Food-iNet, UPV is considered to be the lead institution and is expected to mentor the other members since they have more experience in food R&D.
The member institutions after 3 to 5 years should be at par already with UPV when it comes to food R&D.
Members are also expected to invest in human resource development in food science and technology and related areas and commit to offering BS Food Science or BS Food Technology or related courses like the BS Packaging Engineering of CPU.
In addition, a joint MOU was signed to build and enhance collaboration and development efforts between DOST VI, UPV SOTECH and GSC in the areas of research and development, transfer and sharing of information, knowledge and expertise and capacity building among others.
It will involve an understanding to jointly venture into R&D, capacity building into faculty exchange, and the sharing and use of facilities. (M. A. S. A. Salazar/DOST-6)