DAVAO CITY-BASED Sagrex Foods, Inc. is investing about $1 million in a facility that will export frozen plantain, a variety of cooking banana known in the Philippines as “saba.”
Sagrex Foods Vice-President Gregory S. Marañon said the company is targeting the Middle East market with a “mircowaveable saba” product.
“We want to develop the Middle East market because that’s still underserved and under-penetrated by our business,” he said in an interview last week.
Mr. Marañon said the target is to start exports by April. The Sagrex affiliate in charge of developing the market is First Tropical Foods Corp.
Sagrex has been exporting its Golden Saba-branded product to the US, Australia, and Canada.
“In the Middle East, all the food is imported there and the price of fresh saba high, so we see big potential for (frozen saba) because it is a good substitute for an expensive product,” Mr. Marañon said.
The large population of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East is expected to help drive demand, he said.
“As you know, saba is very familiar to Filipinos, it’s something that they crave,” Mr. Marañon said.
The factory is being set up inside the Anflo Industrial Economic (AIE) zone in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
First Tropical Foods, leasing 2,000 square meters at the AIE, is registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
“The building is a warehouse, but we are converting it into a factory that will house our food storage facility,” Mr. Marañon said, adding that the facility will be certified according to the appropriate food safety and quality standards.
Mr. Marañon said most of the equipment needed for the processing — including peeling, steaming and freezing saba — has been delivered.
Sagrex Foods has been operating a factory in Tibungco, Davao City for eight years and the facility has hit 100% capacity. — Maya M. Padillo