The Gulf countries have proved to be a dynamic market that a Manila government official is eyeing to go beyond it and promote Philippine food products to North Africa and South Asia, as well. The Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry-Centre for International Trade Exhibitions and Mission (DTI-Citem) Food Team officer-in-charge Romleah Juliet Ocampo told The Gulf Today it is no longer about the rising Filipino population in the region that is a big factor. Ocampo repeated what she had said in an earlier interview: “The Middle East is my favourite destination.” “It is really dynamic for its growing market and I am not talking about growing number of Filipinos. The awareness of the other nationalities about our food products has also grown,” she said. “From the GCC, it is now time to expand to other parts of North Africa and South Asia as well,” Ocampo added. The official based her statement on her interviews with the 22-member delegation of Philippine food manufacturers and producers to the recently-concluded 2012 Gulf Food Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire (Gulfood). Ocampo said: “The buyers are more concerned with our prices. They know that our food products are very good and even excellent, quality wise. But they say our prices are stiff.” She was given the feedback that among the products which stirred interest, are the chocovron, an innovation of the sweet polvoron, coated with chocolate; the coconut sugar from cocosap which is naturally organic and highly recommended for diabetics because it is low in glycerine content; and the cocowater. “Buyers said the cocowater we just introduced is like drinking right from the coconut itself,” Ocampo added. Her interviews, along with talks with regional food distributors, would be submitted as a report to DTI-Citem. While there are scheduled selling missions to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan and Kuwait in November, Ocampo said the number of activities that include more business missions, in-store promotions as well as food festivals must be increased. Records from the first two days of Gulfood showed that booked and under negotiation deals between the Philippine delegation and the regional food wholesalers and retailers, were at $35.9 million, with noodles and juices as top sellers. “Our participation this year has so far been the best,” Ocampo said.