Philippine sardines in Turkey? Why not?


Posted at Jun 30 2008 11:05 AM | Updated as of Jun 30 2008 07:05 PM

By Emeterio Sd. Perez
Business Mirror Section Editor

ISTANBUL—A member of the Philippine delegation to the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Bridge Conference here brought with him a Philippine product that is not yet a popular commodity in Turkey.

In exchange, Filipino businessmen are assessing opportunities in Turkey-made products, which, however, are priced higher than goods made in China.

But their interest took the cue from the common sales pitch of both government and business sector which is: If we can’t compete with China on prices, then we fight them on quality.”

Turkey and the Philippines have something in common. For one, both produce furniture. “They reminded us of our carvers in Paete [Laguna] and Pampanga,” said Samson Lim, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Michael Tiu Lim, vice president for operations of Ayala Seafood Corp., has been promoting Mega sardines for his family’s company and other Philippine-made products here as vice president of the Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce.

The family-owned company is not related to the Ayala Corp., the listed holding company of the Zobel family. “It is the name of the place where we operate,” Tiu Lim said.

A fellow delegate was not as lucky. If Tiu Lim may have a chance at hitting the market in Turkey, where there are only 4,000 Filipino workers, Alwyn Lee, whose family owns a noodle factory, discounted any opportunity here. “They,” Lee said, referring to Turkish, “don’t eat noodles.”

Lee’s claim is true as restaurants here don’t serve either noodle soup or pancit, which are known as common servings in restaurants back home.

Apparently, 26-year-old Tiu Lim, who came here with his wife, got a big encouragement in his sales pitch when, most of the time, the Filipinos and delegates from other countries in the Asia-Pacific region were served lamb and  chicken with vegetables as the appetizer in their four days of stay in Istanbul.

Luckily for Filipinos, they had a taste of fish the day after they took a 45-minute flight—courtesy of their host Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of  Turkey— to Izmir, whose history dates back to 3000 B.C., on June 19. It was their only meal with fish as the main dish until some of them flew home on Friday. An ice-cream maker was their lunch host on Thursday at Manisa, a provice in Western Turkey.

Making a sales pitch for Philippine sardines in other countries is not new to Tiu Lim. Ayala Seafoods, he said, has been exporting Mega sardines to the United States, Canada, Malaysia, Europe and Central America.

Although Ayala Seafoods did not provide numbers in its profile, it said it hit record sales in 2007 and is aiming to “increase export volume by 30 percent in 2008.” The projection was made before the Turkey conference.

Ayala Seafoods gets its tamban supplies from Mega Fishing Corp., which also supplies 80 percent of the raw materials—which are fish —required by canning companies in Metro Manila and Zamboanga.

To Filipino importers, the distance between Turkey and the Philippines may be a discouraging factor in buying Turkey-made products. But PCCI’s Lim, whose family owns a chain of appliance stores, said there might be a solution to this.

Lim said if he could get a reduced freight by tapping the cargoless ship from Turkey to bring back goods from Asia-Pacific, he would be in business. He and his son Chris, who flew from China, where he is based as the family business’s marketing man, have been scouting for Turkey-made products while attending the three-day conference.