Mayani eyes overseas market with PHL law boosting exports

BW FILE PHOTO

By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

SINGAPORE — Philippine agricultural supply startup Mayani expects to expand overseas with the help of a new law that seeks to boost export competitiveness, and as the company partners with a half-a-million farmers in the next two years.

The Tatak Pinoy Act, which President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. enacted in February, should help local companies including Mayani comply with the export policies of foreign markets, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder JT Solis said in an interview.

Licensing and export permit requirements are among the key hurdles faced by aspiring exporters, he pointed out.

“What is the requisite documentation that’s needed?,” Mr. Solis told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the Philanthropy Asia Summit in Singapore last week. “Maybe the government, particularly the Trade department and its Export Marketing Bureau could help facilitate these export license and code requirements.”

He said the Tatak Pinoy law should provide a platform that would let local enterprises boost relations with Philippine trade attaches and their foreign counterparts to ease export requirements.

Trade attaches should link Philippine companies with potential buyers in foreign markets, he added. “I’m sure they have communities there of prospective buyers.”

The Tatak Pinoy Act sets up a council that will create a multi-year strategy for exports. Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, one of the measure’s proponents, earlier said the council would consult the public and industry players from the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors for their inputs on how to enforce the law.

Last week, Mayani and four other startups across the world were chosen to receive S$250,000 (P10.5 million) under the yearlong Amplifier mentorship program of Temasek Trust ecosystem entities — the Centre for Impact In-vesting and Practices and Philanthropy Asia Alliance.

Supported by the Impact Innovation Partner Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, the program got 139 submissions from 35 countries in areas including energy, sustainable food and land conservation, ocean conservation, and waste.

Mayani, which has signed up more than 139,000 farmers and partnered with over 500 stores, seeks to reshape rural agricultural value chains in the Philippines by harnessing technology to provide sustainable pathways to mar-kets, boost yield and climate resilience through quality farm inputs and drive financial inclusion through alternative rural financing.

Mr. Solis said, Mayani, which was founded in 2019, seeks to increase its market reach to 12 from just seven regions in the next two years.

“We want to be able to reach at least half-a-million farmers within the next two years,” he said. “Maybe in the next five years, a million farmers and fishers.”

He said the private sector could help the government address the declining number of Filipino farmers by boosting their income and promoting financial inclusion.

“It’s going to encourage a lot of the younger generation to see that, ‘Hey, I think it’s a sector worth innovating for,’” he said. “And hopefully that sends a positive signal.”

Mr. Solis said the lack of cold chain storage facilities in the country is a key challenge for agro-food startups.

Mayani has its own cold storage facilities. “Obviously, it’s not enough. There has to be support from the government because the Philippines is a 7,000-island archipelago.”

In January, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said the government needs P93 billion to build post-harvest facilities in the next three years, to keep P10.7 billion worth of rice and corn yearly from going to waste.

Mr. Solis said Mayani seeks to use renewable energy such as solar panels as it brings its cold storage facilities closer to farmers.

“A lot of smart cold storage facilities, especially in other countries, use solar panels already,” he said. “In our case, we are looking in that direction especially if we bring post-harvest cold storage facilities closer to the farm. It just makes sense to install solar panels.”

He said startups are key to advancing the Philippines’ green transition goals.

“You would need firms that are very nimble, that can innovate fast,” he said. “On the ground, I think that’s what separates startups from normal companies — the ability to innovate fast, the ability to move fast, the ability to deploy solutions fast.”