Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for a large majority of establishments in the Philippines, employing 70% of the total labor force. Undeniably, MSMEs constitute the backbone of the economy, playing a key role in the country’s growth and development. Nevertheless, local MSMEs in food production and processing have a small presence in the Philippine market. Most food products available in local retail chains are produced in neighboring Asian countries. The problem is that development of the sector is hindered by uncoordinated and outdated professional and technical qualifications for MSMEs as well as a lack of adequate public action against noncompliance with food regulations and standards.
ASSIST partnered with TÜV Rheinland, SEQUA, the University of the Philippines Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP-ISSI) and AFOS Foundation for Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation to implement Pro-FIT. The project aimed to enhance the capacity of local MSMEs in the food and beverage industry, to improve competitiveness in local and foreign markets. This was done by creating awareness and addressing the benefits of food safety regulations and standards, and implementing a variety of qualification courses on food safety regulations and standards through the coordinated effort from relevant stakeholders.
By the end of the project, five courses were developed with curriculum and training materials for the pilot implementation and certification of the diploma courses. These courses included Certified Quality Associate, Diploma in Food Safety Management, Certification Programme on Good Manufacturing Practices, Certified Food Safety Professional and Basics of Food Safety, and Hygiene and Food Handling; and have been absorbed into UP-ISSI’s regular course offerings to students. ASSIST and partners also executed Train-the-Trainer workshops for 30 trainers coming from UP-ISSI, the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Trade Training Center and other TVET centers in the country. Additionally, basic courses were administered to 200 operators from 10 MSMEs. The overall impact of this project increases the chances of MSMEs in the food and beverage sector to better enter domestic and foreign markets and contribute to the growing economy of the Philippines.