Ube: A Potential Market in Europe

Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt Maria Yvette Banzon-Abalos
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The vibrant and versatile ube, also known as purple yam, is gaining attention as a potential market in Europe, according to the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt, Maria Yvette Banzon-Abalos. In an interview with The Manila Times, Banzon-Abalos highlighted the unique qualities of ube and its potential to showcase the diverse offerings of the Philippines beyond its reputation as a major coconut producer.

While acknowledging that ube cannot be directly compared to coconut in terms of volume and application, Banzon-Abalos emphasized the need to challenge the perception that Filipinos are solely associated with coconut. She expressed her desire to introduce the world to the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines through the promotion of ube, along with other agricultural products like calamansi, turmeric, pili nut, cacao, and ginger, which are being actively promoted by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Banzon-Abalos coined the term “ube diplomacy” to describe the potential of ube as a non-political and exciting channel to showcase Filipino culture to the world. Drawing inspiration from other successful endeavors that started with humble beginnings and faced resistance and suspicion, she believes that ube has the potential to become a unique offering by the Philippines.

In addition to its cultural significance, ube holds economic promise for the country. As a tuberous root vegetable, it is a popular ingredient in Filipino desserts and pastries, such as the famous halo-halo. Moreover, it is in high demand in food processing. However, the local industry faces challenges that hinder its full potential. Ube is primarily grown in small patches of land in regions like Ilocos, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.

In 2006, the country produced 30,064 tons of ube, with Central Visayas being the biggest producer, accounting for 21,849 tons. Among the regions, Bohol alone contributed 21,240 tons. Despite a steady increase in production since 2000, with an average annual growth rate of 2.5 percent, the national average yield was only 5.01 tons per hectare in 2006, indicating room for improvement.

By promoting the growth and export of ube, the Philippines can not only tap into the European market but also highlight various aspects of its culture, such as fiestas, interpersonal skills, and resilience in the face of challenges. Banzon-Abalos believes that the excitement and unity among Filipinos surrounding ube can serve as a powerful connection to the international community.

Furthermore, Banzon-Abalos pointed out that ube holds symbolic significance for the Philippines. Some even consider it the unofficial national color, as it combines the blue and red of the Philippine flag. This unique characteristic presents an opportunity to position ube distinctly as a Filipino brand, further enhancing its appeal in the global market.

In conclusion, the potential of ube in the European market is not to be underestimated. With its vibrant color, versatility in culinary applications, and cultural significance, ube has the potential to captivate international consumers. By leveraging its unique qualities and addressing the challenges faced by the local industry, the Philippines can establish itself as a key player in the global ube market. It is an exciting time for the Filipino community to come together and showcase the richness of their culture through this humble root crop.

Source: The Manila Times

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