COTABATO CITY: The Department of Agriculture (DA) through its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is all set to modernize the fishing industry with engineers from California installing here the prototype of a machine for fish drying and packaging.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in a statement said by January 2017, engineers from Belco Engineering based in Monrovia, Southern California, which designs and fabricates machines for fish drying and packaging equipment, will start designing the machine and install a prototype in the country at no cost to the Philippine government.
Piñol, with Undersecretary for Fisheries Eduardo Gongona, Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña and other members of the Philippine delegation, visited Belco Engineering on November 1 and observed the designs and fabrication of the machines.
In June this year, shortly before he took over as Agriculture secretary, Piñol visited California and talked to the owner of Seafood City, one of the biggest Asian supermarkets in the West Coast.
He discussed with him why products from the Philippines are losing out to items coming from Thailand, Vietnam and even Cambodia.
Piñol said William Go, one of the Filipino-American owners, said sanitary issues are the main hindrances to the entry of Philippine products into the American market.
Go cited dried fish and fish sauce (bagoong) as among the products which are in demand among Filipino-Americans living in the US but could hardly enter the market because of sanitary and health issues.
Piñol noted that the method of drying fish in the Philippines exposes the dried fish to dust and flies, not to mention the inconsistent quality and moisture of the dried fish and very poor packaging.
He cited the case of the province of Samar where a lot of fish are wasted for lack of cold storage, ice-making and fish drying facilities.
A study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that almost 40 percent of the fish catch around the world are lost to spoilage because of the lack of post-harvest facilities.
“Now with the plan of the Department of Agriculture to modernize our fishing industry, this problem may end soon,” Piñol said.
At Belco Engineering, he requested brothers Mike and Paul Mizik, descendants of Slovak immigrants and owners of the engineering company, to design and build a modern fish drying facility, which would not only dry the fish uniformly but also bring it through an irradiation and packaging line.
The irradiation process for food items is the internationally accepted process to ensure only safe and sanitary food is offered in the market.
Last November 2, Mike Mizik and Piñol signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which stipulates that Belco Engineering will design and install a prototype in the Philippines early next year.