IFEX Philippines 2024 hits the spot with festive salu-salo

Thousands flocked to IFEX Philippines 2024, where CITEM organized a major showcase of the country’s local and international food flavors and ingredients for trade and retail. Activities included live cooking demos and learning sessions from the culinary community and industry personalities. The three-day event was held at the World Trade Center Metro Manila from May 10 to 12, 2024.

IFEX Philippines 2024 officially opened by (l-r): PLDT AVP and Business Head Corinne Zablan; Pasay City LGU Chief Of Staff Peter Eric Pardo; Chair William Co and President Sergio Ortiz-Luis of PHILEXPORT; Senator Mark Villar; Dr. Mina Gabor, CITEM Founder and President of International School of Sustainable Tourism; Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions OIC Ma. Lourdes Mediran; Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Carol Sanchez; Department of Agriculture-AMAS Director Junibert de Sagun; and National Food Authority OIC Deputy Administrator Mario Andrada.

The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) officially opened the     17th edition of IFEX Philippines last May 10, 2024 to an estimated crowd of nearly 10,000 for the combined 3-day event at the World Trade Center Metro Manila in Pasay City, Philippines. The event surpassed expectations with initial and unofficial total export sales crossing USD165M,  as compared to the USD163.29M generated in 2023.

CITEM, together with more than 500 exhibitors and event partners from across the country, welcomed visitors composed of the diplomatic corps, government agencies, international and local trade buyers and partners, retail customers, and media outlets. Members of the diplomatic community from Asia and neighboring regions also came to show their support.

Leading the official opening activities, CITEM Officer-In-Charge and Deputy Executive Director Ma. Lourdes Mediran said that “our country has a rich tapestry of flavors that   remain unknown to certain parts of the world.” She added that the power of food to bring       a sense of community and belonging is the perfect vehicle to show the world the excellent food offerings, innovative craft, and export capabilities of the Philippines.

This year’s export food promotion efforts of CITEM is one that espouses the unifying concept of a traditional Filipino celebration of salu-salo or feast, which reflects the community of food MSMEs, manufacturers, producers, distributors, and consumers in the export value chain.

IFEX Philippines Opening Day, May 10, 2024 (l-r): CITEM OIC Mediran speaking at the Opening Ceremony; Senator Mark Villar lauding CITEM during his keynote address.

The Honorable Senator Mark Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship; and Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions, and Currencies echoed the importance of effective partnerships in his keynote address.

He congratulated CITEM for bringing IFEX Philippines to life and its continuous efforts to champion the country’s food and talent. He said that while others may call Filipino food exotic, it is more of the innate creativity that makes it stand out, adding that it becomes a worthwhile experience when shared. He said of IFEX, “It is a platform where visions are turned into reality and opportunities are seized.”

Wishing for more food expositions like IFEX in the country, he expressed his strong commitment in further championing the food industry, assuring CITEM of having a staunch ally in the Senate.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ana Carolina Sanchez spoke on behalf of Secretary Alfredo Pascual to share the message of the DTI. Mirroring the sentiments of the senator, she also underscored the importance of delivering comprehensive mechanisms to allow for inclusive growth opportunities and sustainable development.      She cited DTI’s private-public partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and     Clark International Airport Corporation for the Three-Year Food Logistic Action Agenda, as it focuses on establishing secure food distribution routes and access points resulting in affordable and reliable food sources across the country.

Among the major groups that are benefiting and crucial to the success of the food trade industry are the MSMEs. During the ceremony, highlights of the media salu-salo were shown, followed by the announcement of the complete list of the latest winners of the Katha Awards for Food. These winning products are also available at the exhibition floor, along with thousands of export-quality food and beverage offerings.

A salu-salo of foreign and local affairs (clockwise, top left): Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Shanghai Commercial Counsellor Glenn Peñaranda; Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega with exhibitor ZC E & L Corporation; PHILEXPORT President Ortiz-Luis and Philfoodex Corp. President Ruben See at the Flavor Finds display; and at the middle, Argentine Embassy Charges d’ Affaires Leandro Waisman with other dignitaries.

Meanwhile, DA Agribusiness and Marketing Service (DA-AMAS) OIC and Director Junibert de Sagun, commended IFEX for continuing to be a world-class showcase for Philippine food, as well as the dedication and hard work of the participating exhibitors that include over 42 regional exhibitors. He said that beyond serving as a B2B platform, IFEX stands as an opportunity to foster more trade relations and economic opportunities. He is optimistic that last year’s sales in agriculture can be surpassed with the help of its partners and programs like CITEM and IFEX Philippines, respectively. “As we continue to share our language         of food to the world, we look forward to more fruitful partnerships for a masaganang Philippines.

Other notable figures from the public sector include Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) President Sergio Ortis-Luis Jr., Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega, Pangasinan Governor Ramon Guico III, and the founder and very first president of CITEM, Dr. Mina Gabor. She also served as Tourism Secretary. International delegates from Argentina, Brunei, Malaysia, and Pakistan also witnessed the occasion.

DTI Usec. Sanchez (at center) graces the opening of the Philippine Halal Pavilion.

Following the formal opening, CITEM guided the guests inside the various show components of the exhibition to meet and greet the participating exhibitors in their respective booths, and mingle with other trade visitors. DTI Usec. Sanchez also officially opened the Philippine Halal Pavilion during the VIP Tour.

The DA, for its section, features exhibitors offering the so-called Premium 7 that is part of the continuous promotion of the country’s top crops. These raw food supplies are highly in demand for their various possibilities beyond food production. The Premium 7 are composed of the following: banana, cacao, coconut, coffee, mango, pineapple, and tuna.

IFEX Philippines 2024 visitors are greeted by a vibrant selection of the country’s Premium 7 at the DA showcase.

Other attractions included a photo gallery capturing 15 years of heritage food research from Philippine Food Holidays author and Philippine Gastronomy Tourism scholar Clang Garcia. She is also one of the first to become a FOODPhilippines Advocate Par Excellence together with food content creator Abi Marquez. They were conferred at the IFEX Philippines 2024 Media Salu-Salo, where Ms. Garcia also guested as panel discussion moderator.

IFEX Philippines Project Manager Rowena Mendoza presenting the recognitions to Ms. Clang Garcia and Ms. Abi Marquez.

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