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Bangus Growers Urged to Apply Winning Strategy to Enter Export Market

The Philippine bangus or milkfish industry has a lot of advantages over its Asian neighbors. It is the top 3 producer of bangus in the world and has the potential to become a major exporter. Yet, it continues to lag behind other bangus exporting regions such as China and Taiwan. This is because the local bangus growers continue to fear exploring the unknown export market and are more comfortable with the competitive prices in the local market. At the Bangus Congress held on April 28-29, 2005 coinciding the celebration of the Dagupan Bangus Festival, Vice President for Operations of Feedmix Nutrition Specialist, Inc. Mr. Noel del Mundo identified the problems of the industry and recommended a market solution where bangus growers can participate to promote the Philippine bangus and its value-added processed products abroad.

He acknowledged that the bangus industry has seen an erratic and often unpredictable cycle of bangus prices, and fluctuating market demand and supply during the last four years. Del Mundo pointed out in his presentation that such undue changes and difficulties in the local market for bangus created questions about its profitability. Thus, he stressed that it is now time to consider one particular market that has been known for many years and is much talked about, yet seldom tapped – the export market.

As has been the recent trends, del Mundo explained that “Not only has the biggest exporters of bangus in the world; i.e., Taiwan and China been able to harness bangus exports, they have as well become an avid consumer of the bangus fish as food source. From simple fresh frozen whole fish, to value- added products such as] belly-only cuts or smoked bangus, China and Taiwan are now major consumer markets for bangus.” He also stressed that the United States has also become a big consumer market for bangus as this is not only made up of Filipino Americans who know how to eat bangus, but also new immigrants of Chinese as well as US Armed Forces commissary who as a singular market unit is a big consumer source.

In a bid to facilitate the entry of local bangus growers into the export market, del Mundo announced that Feedmix Nutrition Specialist, Inc. has come up with a market solution to overcome the difficulties faced by the local bangus growers pertaining to price, size and product traceability. A leading feedmiller in the Philippine bangus industry, Feedmix is offering an integrated approach for sustainable bangus aquaculture leading to higher export sales.

The company is inviting select growers and bangus farming entities to a unique partnership in order to export bangus and its value-added products to the most demanding and highly lucrative export markets. To do this, Feedmix will provide services -- technical and technological – to foster an integrated approach for bangus culture. From the seeding of the bangus fry, to the growing of bangus at the lowest possible feed conversion ratios, to harvesting and post-harvest handling, to the processing and final marketing and shipping of the bangus products to export markets, Feedmix becomes the bangus growers’ partner.

The key to the partnership is a fully integrated processing plant which bangus growers can supply with their fresh catch. Feedmix, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Fisher Farms, Inc. is launching by the last quarter of this year a fully integrated fish processing facility specifically geared towards the volume and the quality requirements of the export market. The new Fisher Farms fish processing plant will have the advantages of IQF or Individual Quick Freeze facilities, ensuring optimum cold chain quality to meet the most stringent standards worldwide.

Designed to be HACCP-compliant, ISO 9000, ISO 14000, SQF 2000 and GMP/SSOP compliant, the Fisher Farms plant will boast of being one of the most modern fish processing facilities in the Philippines. It will have the capability of a 7 degree Celsius working environment to preserve the cold chain quality of bangus, from the farm to the processing plant and eventually to the export markets. The Fisher Farms plant will have an integrated breading, battering and frying line as well as a sausage linking and an advanced smoke house facility to help develop further value-added products.

An important aspect of the Feedmix market solution is to promote the use of technologically advanced extruded, non-polluting, zero antibiotic fish feeds. The company is a pioneer in applying the extrusion system in producing its fish feeds. With extruded feeds, more economical feed conversion ratios is achieved by growers in different systems of bangus grow-out. Also, the use of extruded feeds ensures the bio-security of the grow-out farm, and guarantees the quality and traceability of the bangus produce.

Del Mundo mentioned that negotiating with export buyers is one of the value-added services that Feedmix has undertaken for the bangus growers. It also offers its post harvest facilities to ensure the high quality and traceability of the bangus products to be processed and exported.

In ending his presentation, del Mundo emphasized that the Philippine can become an important producer and exporter of bangus -- whether in frozen, cuts or value-added processed forms -- if the industry and its key players go beyond the price issue and embrace new concepts. With the export market getting tough, it is time for the bangus industry to work together and adapt such winning strategy to support and lead the bangus growers into bigger markets.

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