WHILE Chile is known for its fruit and wine exports, livestock sounds more like the playground of its neighbor, Argentina. However, on Oct. 13, Chile showed off its prowess in pork: several thousand metric tons of it, in fact.
At an event at the Grand Hyatt, the hotel’s executive chef Mark Hagan prepared Chi-Noy Adobo, Stir-fried Pork Liver, and Pork Flower Fat Inasal — all familiar flavors for a Filipino, but made with pork from Chile. Juan Carlos Domínguez, President of the Chilean Meat Exporters Association, ChileCarne, told BusinessWorld that they have only begun exporting pork to the Philippines last year. Last year, Chile exported 4,500 metric tons of pork to the Philippines, and is increasing that number to 6,000 this year. “We’re just starting,” said Mr. Dominguez.
“It’s not a problem of volume, it’s a problem of knowing each other, and know(ing) exactly which product you prefer,” he said. While the sheer weight of what they exported sounds huge, Mr. Domínguez insists that their edge is in quality. “You are looking for quality, not only volume. That is what Chile is offering. We have a really high-quality product.”
Chilean pork production, according to him, relies on three pillars: biosecurity, food safety, and sustainability. By biosecurity, he means that, “Chile has special conditions that we are protected (from) diseases that can affect our animals.” He notes that they were marked safe from the 2019 African swine fever outbreaks. While he credits safeguards from diseases to a “strong local authority,” he points out the country’s geographical destiny as its own protection: the Andes mountains, a desert, the Pacific Ocean, and even glacial ice. As for sustainability, they take water efficiency seriously and their farms are measured against international standards. Finally, Mr. Domínguez discusses other food safety measures they have in place: for example, they haven’t used growth hormones in their pigs since 2006. “We also enrich the environment of the pigs, so they can live and move free(ly) in the farms,” he said.
As he points out, Chile only has a population of 18 million, so a lot of their produce goes towards export. This is why they’ve taken the effort of studying what their export consumers need, tailor-fitting them to preferences in fat content and other such factors. According to him, Filipino consumers like “a little bit of fat, but not inside the muscle.”
As we’ve pointed out, Chile isn’t top of mind in the region when it comes to livestock. Mr. Domínguez said, “We will never compete with Argentina, Brazil, and Spain. They are in the volume business. We are in the quality business. We are not a big producer, we are middle-sized producers, but we are so focused on quality.”
He adds, “Chile is a well-known country of quality food exports. We are well-known for fresh fruit, salmon (it’s the world’s second largest producer after Norway) — and now we want Filipinos to know that we’re also pork producers, poultry producers. Very high quality.”
On that note, Mr. Dominguez shared that perhaps, it’s in shared culture that may be what makes their pork a hit in the country. “I am really surprised that we are very similar,” he said. He says that he has been to some Southeast Asian countries, but, “The first time I was in the Philippines, I think I feel like home.”
“The way that you cook, the way that you eat is very similar to Chile. I think it could be really a win-win situation for both countries.” — Joseph L. Garcia