Latest ASEAN news

Agricultural export tops $132.9 mln as of 15 Oct


The value of agricultural exports has registered US$132.9 million in 15 days of the current mini-budget period (October 2021-March 2022), as per the statistic of the Ministry of Commerce.
The figures reflect an increase of $45 million. The agro exports topped $87.5 million in the corresponding period of the 2020-2021FY, according to the trade figures released by the Ministry of Commerce.
The agricultural exports jumped to $4.6 billion in the financial year 2020-2021, despite the downward trend in other export groups.
The agricultural exports surged even though the main trade partner China shut down all the borders in the wake of the COVID-19 surge in Myanmar.
The coronavirus pandemic impacted the foreign demand for other export groups; agricultural products, fishery, livestock, mineral, forest products, finished industrial goods and other goods.
In the exports sector, the agriculture industry performed the best, accounting for 37 per cent of overall exports. The chief items of export in the agricultural sector are rice and broken rice, pulses and beans and maize. Fruits and vegetables, sesame, dried tea leaves, sugar, and other agro products are also shipped to other countries.
Myanmar agro products are primarily exported to China, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Sometimes, the export market remains uncertain due to unsteady global demand.
The country requires specific export plans for each agro product, as they are currently exported to external markets based upon supply and demand. The G-to-G pact also ensures a strong market for the farmers. Contract farming systems, involvement of regional and state agriculture departments, exporters, traders, and some grower groups, are required to meet production targets, the Agriculture Department stated.
The Commerce Ministry is working to help farmers deal with challenges such as high input costs, procurement of pedigree seeds, high cultivation costs, and erratic weather conditions.

Source from the Global New Light of Myanmar




EU mobilises 783m euros for green infrastructure to boost economic recovery in ASEAN

THE European Union is contributing 50 million euros (S$78.2 million) to the Asean Catalytic Green Finance Facility (ACGF), bringing the total contribution from the Team Europe to 783 million euros.

"In the context of a rapidly warming planet, we urgently need to rethink our approach to infrastructure development. The Asean Catalytic Green Finance Facility will help Asean countries build greener, fairer and more sustainable economies. I am glad that Team Europe can contribute to this effort," said Koen Doens, director-general for international partnerships at the European Commission.

Team Europe comprises the European Union, its member states and financial institutions such as national development banks, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Support from development partners of the facility is expected to mobilise 7 billion euros for low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects in South-east Asia, accelerating the region's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. To date, co-financing partners have pledged a total of 1.7 billion euros to the facility.

The contribution to the ACGF, which was established by the Asean Infrastructure Fund and managed by the Asian Development Bank, is part of EU-Asean cooperation on environment and climate change under the Strategic Partnership, which, in addition to sustainable finance, includes biodiversity; forest governance; law and trade; sustainable use of peatlands and haze mitigation; emergency response; and smart cities.

Source: The Business Times (SG)

Date: 2 November 2021


Thailand leveraging deepening regional integration

By upgrading the capacity of its multi-modal infrastructure and preparing facilities to serve growing world demand for high-technology goods and services, Thailand expects investment and development across various industries to thrive over the coming decades.

Building on its strategic location in the middle of the Indo-China region, the accelerated pace of economic integration in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) and the subsequent improved flows of goods, services and people across the region are creating new opportunities for Thailand’s manufacturing, tourism and services industries.

When the Boten–Vientiane Railway (China–Laos railway) opens for service in December 2021, it will mark a significant advancement in the Trans-Asian Railway1 in its quest to become a fully-integrated transportation platform linking Asia and the Pacific.

At 414 km long, the Boten-Vientiane Railway connects China’s Yuxi-Mohan Railway in the North with the existing meter-gauge railway, which runs from Boten in Northern Laos to Vientiane, before crossing into Thailand at Thanaleng, and continuing to Nong Khai in Thailand’s Northeastern region, and finally to Bangkok. The railway will shorten transportation times from Yunnan to Nong Khai to 15 hours, compared with two days via road.

Besides lowering costs and improving the efficiency of logistics, the rail route will increase GMS access to Chinese markets and create new opportunities for tourism and the services sector. Thailand’s plan for the construction of a high-speed train route linking Bangkok initially with Nakhon Ratchasima, due to open in 2026, and then later with Nong Khai, due for completion in 2028, will enhance Thailand’s capacity to take advantage of better connectivity across the GMS market and China. The construction plan will include warehouses and transportation yards to facilitate goods transportation. A study conducted by the Bank of Thailand showed that the railway will reduce logistics costs from Yunnan to Nong Khai by half, boosting trade with Laos and China.

The private sector also expects collaboration under the Cambodia-Vietnam-Thailand Economic Corridor (CVTEC) to boost connectivity for trade and commerce, as well as for the meetings, incentive travel, conventions, and exhibitions (MICE) and tourism sectors. The CVTEC framework links Thailand’s industrial zone in the EEC to tourism destinations in Chanthaburi and Trat provinces; to Cambodia’s Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces; and Vietnam’s Ca Mau and Kien Giang. The linkage of the three countries via rail, road and water represents an opportunity to develop high- value services such as in the MICE, medical and wellness sectors as well as in goods logistics.

Besides physical connectivity, the 7th GMS Summit Meeting2 included a commitment by the participants to push forward other mechanisms to help facilitate transport and trade flows across borders. These include the GMS Cross Border Transport Facilitation Agreement, which aims at streamlining the rules and regulations for cross-border trade, investment and tourism. The GMS members have also initiated a framework to encourage better integration of the energy sector focusing on power generation, transmission infrastructure, and power trade though power grid connection and the establishment of an integrated regional power market oriented toward clean and renewable energy.

The region also pledged to improve competitiveness by implementing measures for enhancing the food safety, security and environmental sustainability of agri-food production through value chain integration that favours small farmers, rural women and small and medium agri-enterprises and harmonised quality and safety standards. Moreover, tourism in the GSM should be boosted by promoting the region as a single tourist destination backed a well-coordinated marketing campaign and connected tourism infrastructure.

GMS members also announced plans to develop special economic zones and border SEZs with improved connectivity as well as e-commerce. The GMS is also focused on community aspects such as helping one another on matters such as sustainable urbanisation, along with programs to improve surveillance of communicable diseases, particularly across borders, improve public health systems, regulate safe and orderly labour migration, and conduct capacity building programmes for public officials.

Source: The Bangkok Post


Transforming patient care in Asia with intelligent automation: SG Healthcare Practice Leader

Written by Johnny Ong, APAC Healthcare Practice Lead at Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific. 


Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robots can solve many challenges faced by the healthcare sector today. In Asia Pacific (APAC), interest in AI developments in healthcare has been growing as a response to global healthcare and economic trends, with countries in this region beginning to explore AI and robots to solve healthcare challenges and improve existing healthcare systems and workflows.

Technology has become increasingly integral, as hospitals around the world try to care for more patients with less staffing. In Southeast Asia for example, Changi General Hospital in Singapore is boosting productivity by deploying more than 50 robots to help automate work – from administrative duties to minimally invasive surgeries.

Zebra’s latest Global Healthcare Vision Study has highlighted the potential of AI improving outpatient care with more opportunities for remote consulting and diagnostics. Telehealth opportunities are growing, with a vast majority of hospitals across APAC currently exploring and trialing digital health solutions. In Singapore, reports have found that this figure stands at 94 per cent, while Australia and China have an 84 per cent and 89 per cent adoption rate respectively.

It is important for healthcare automation to be embraced without disrupting human touch. Patient care requires deep expertise and complex interactions irreplicable by technology. 

Key Healthcare Challenges in APAC 

By leveraging AI and robotics automation, the healthcare system can be made more efficient and impactful. Here are the key challenges facing the healthcare sector in APAC, which can be solved by automation:

  • Patient safety: According to the World Health Organization, insufficient and unsafe care remain common in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, where 60 per cent of deaths from conditions amenable to healthcare result from poor quality care. Furthermore, medication errors are estimated to cost around US$42 billion each year in the region.
  • Worker retention: Retaining healthcare professionals is increasingly challenging for hospitals in APAC, exacerbated by the worsening Covid-19 situation in the region. According to Zebra’s Global Healthcare Vision Study, approximately two-thirds of clinicians and 69 per cent of decision-makers agree that physicians and caregivers are overextended during their shifts, leading to fatigue and burnout of front-line workers.
  • Workflow process: Healthcare workers have less automated workflows compared to front-line workers in other sectors. Nurses are constrained by heavy administrative tasks, compromising critical patient information relay to other care team members as a result. 

Harnessing the Power of AI at a Clinical Level

Fortunately, successful adoption of technology can address many of these challenges simultaneously. APAC is at the forefront of healthcare innovation, where 97 per cent of decision-makers and 83 per cent of clinicians surveyed in Zebra’s Global Healthcare Vision Study agree that technology helps prevent medical errors. Drug research and discovery, as well as clinical diagnosis, are a few of the recent applications for AI on a clinical level. In China, researchers have recently made a breakthrough with AI-driven drug research, which is expected to improve the current drug discovery process of 10-15 years. 

Operationally, AI can improve the resource management system of healthcare workers, increasing care capacity. One of the main issues hospitals face is a shortage of beds, with countries like India reporting a lack of beds and hospital equipment6, contributing to more deaths as patients were unable to receive timely treatment7. Hospitals must remain efficient if they want to treat as many patients as possible. AI can analyse data sets to predict surgery times and manage limited resources by sending automated machine-to-machine notifications to alert support staff to prepare for room turnover. 

AI integrations can also be applied across various Internet of Things (IoT) devices used in clinical environments to improve operational efficiency and enhance patient care. According to the same Zebra study, approximately 80 per cent of hospital executives surveyed plan to automate workflows in the next year to improve supply chain management, make it easier to locate critical equipment and medical assets, better orchestrate emergency rooms and operating rooms, and streamline staff scheduling.

For example, instead of constantly monitoring the medical devices in the hospital room to ensure optimal performance, hospital staff could utilise clinical mobile technologies to receive a reminder notification on their mobile devices to routinely check equipment. Similar prompts could be used to ensure frequent medical supplies restocking in rooms.

Furthermore, robotics automation solutions traditionally used in supply chain environments can now be extended to benefit the healthcare sector. Robots can be mobilised in hospitals to deliver the right supplies to the right care team members at the right time and location, allowing providers to focus on more imperative tasks. 

The Road Ahead

As the healthcare community continues its journey toward intelligent automation, expect to see AI-based staff scheduling solutions further developed and applied. In the future, a more mobile and flexible clinical team model can be achieved by using real-time and forecasted demand to achieve the right workload balance for healthcare workers. 

Steps will also be taken to enhance collaboration and communication between robots and front-line workers. Equipping these machines with enhanced intelligence will transform robots into valuable advisors and assistants who can monitor supplies and equipment availability, deliver meals to patients, and even assist with surgeries. 

It is now an opportune time to ride healthcare’s digital wave in APAC and merge the capabilities of AI and robots, turning the abundance of information into opportunities for more automated workflows and informed decision-making. By combining the respective strengths of analysis and mobility, AI can analyse all data available in healthcare information systems, electronic medical records, and edge devices to accurately instruct robots on the best next action – similar to how AI is used to guide front-line workers today.

With the assistance of automation, nurses will now be able to focus on providing better quality care to each patient. This, in turn, helps ensure one of healthcare’s foundational elements remains: the value of human touch. 

Source: The Business Times (Singapore)


Digital Startup Knowledge Exchange Centre to be a base for innovation in Thailand

A Digital Innovation Centre spanning 40,000 square metres of space is planned for Thailand Digital Valley, located in Chon Buri's Si Racha district, in the next 24 months to allow technology testing and development, according to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry.

The centre is part of the third phase of Thailand Digital Valley, which aims to serve as the digital hub of Asean. The third phase requires 2.6 billion baht in investment. The centre is designed to have labs for 5G testing, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR), cloud innovation labs and a design centre. "This third phase of Thailand Digital Valley is expected to be complete in the next 24 months," said DES Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn.

Construction has begun for the Digital Startup Knowledge Exchange Centre spanning 4,500 sq m under the second phase of Thailand Digital Valley. This facility, Mr Chaiwut said, would create a digital startup community where technology exchange and business cooperation can take place. The construction of this second phase is 80% complete, he said. It is expected to be fully completed in December. The site is fully reserved in advance by tech companies, developers and startups.

According to Mr Chaiwut, Thailand Digital Valley, which carries a total cost of 4.5 billion baht, will be a hub for startups and top tech companies from Thailand and the world to design, develop and test advanced technologies and innovation. It also offers a digital ecosystem which connects big tech firms and digital startups. The targeted digital start-ups include FinTech, AgriTech, Travel Tech, Healthcare Tech, EduTech and GovTech, he said. Mr Chaiwut said the project intends to become Asean's digital hub, driving national technology development and digital startups to global market while attracting foreign investment.

The first phase of the project centres on the 1,500-sq-m Digital One Stop Service, facilitating tech investors. "Thanks to positive feedback from the digital startups in the second phase of the project and the first phase of Digital One Stop Service, the DES ministry has assigned the Digital Economy Promotion Agency [Depa] to speed up the construction of the third phase to capitalise on the country's opportunities and competency in the new economy," he said.

Depa president and chief executive Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin said Thailand Digital Valley is expected to create over 20,000 digital jobs and attract over 50 billion baht in investment. He said Depa has three core development projects to help boost the country's digital transformation, consisting of the Government Big Data Institute (GBDi), Internet of Things Institute, and Startups Institute. These three can have interactive relationships with each other, Mr Nuttapon said. The IoT Institute can provide tech innovation for startups while GBDi could serve as a data source in the ecosystem, he said.

Source: The Bangkok Post

Do your workers have the skills of the future?

When organizations initially discussed the future of work, conversations were largely around setting expectations among workers about the new hybrid model. Now, as people return to the office, we must think big picture about how we address the impact that the past 18 months have had on segments of the workforce. It’s not just about where work is performed; it’s about having a healthy and supported workforce with the right skills to perform the work.

People need the right skills to operate in this new, digitally enabled environment. And organizations that create strong relationships between technology and people (enabled by new skills and ways of working) are better positioned for future growth.

So, how do we continually train a variety of workers in the most efficient manner possible so they gain new skills? How do we recognize transferrable skills and knowledge and ensure that people have opportunities to grow and thrive? If we don’t address these questions now, the skill chasm that started during the pandemic will only widen.

Skilling all for the future of work
There are short-term and long-term considerations as businesses shape their plans for developing skills across the workforce. Consider these ideas as a starting point.

1. Establish a culture of continuous learning. Businesses are under immense pressure to deal with the current labor crunch. Just recently, I spoke with several retail leaders about the challenges they face in finding workers to cover basic needs, such as filling shifts. Prospective workers have options, and one way for employers to differentiate is by offering a culture that provides access to ongoing education. Acquiring new skills not only helps workers in new roles, but it also equips them to keep pace as the future of work evolves.

Our latest research reveals that more than two-thirds (70%) of workers agree their organization helps them meet their potential by implementing a program of training, skilling and education. While this number may sound promising, there is work to be done—especially in regards to providing the right learning opportunities for all segments.

For example, Target is partnering with education platform Guild to offer workers access to undergraduate and master’s degrees, certificates and 1:1 coaching.  Walmart, through its Live Better U program, is helping workers to do everything form learn a new language or skill through on-demand training to earning a college degree. Walmart recently announced that it will pay 100% of college tuition and books for its associates. The company recognizes that a skilled and well-trained workforce is a win for employers, customers and the business.

Programs like these illustrate that skilling is not a-one-and-done deal. Skilling and learning must be ongoing, especially now as the longevity of skills is different. Years ago, the lifespan of a skill was 15-20 years. Today in the digital world, skills last just 3-5 years before they need to be revisited. It’s important to determine the mechanism by which your business will measure the lifespan of skills. And, furthermore, ensure there are a variety of opportunities for your people to continuously learn. 

2. Improve skills equitably. As the culture of continuous learning takes shape, businesses must be mindful of cultivating skills in an equitable manner. This includes the critical segment of workers that exited the workforce during the pandemic. Businesses need to bring back people who may have fallen through the cracks of no fault of their own.

Some had to stop working to care for children at home. What do they need to feel supported and Net Better Off? What skills do they need to be successful? For instance, when it comes to emerging technologies, our research revealed that the skill gap between ethnic minorities (52%) and others (40%) is highest for blockchain, applied intelligence, IoT and cloud computing.

Equitable skilling will deliberately account for the needs of a variety of workers who are essential to the future workforce. Women have the longest runway to an equitable work experience. They also have the most to gain—unlocking 4.7x their potential—if their everyday experiences are managed better.

3. Customize for greater impact. Skilling should not be a “peanut butter” approach in which you try to do everything for everyone. Not everyone likes their peanut butter the same way. For some, it can be too much in a sandwich, for some too little, and for others it’s just right. Look at each person as an individual when it comes to skilling. Understand the foundation on which they gain knowledge. What are their goals and aspirations for their future of work, not just for that of the business?

If we get serious about skilling, we must think about how to do it more efficiently. This calls for creating a personalization engine of sorts that can recognize skills individuals already possess and illuminate any gaps. Looking further ahead into the future, we will see the emergence of a “skill passport” enabled by blockchain that captures a person’s skills into a transferrable record that can travel with them throughout their career journey. There is simply no reason to reinvent the wheel at every step of a person’s work experience.

Step into the future
As the future of work unfolds, so will your approaches to cultivating skills across the workforce in an equitable way. You won’t be able to do it all in isolation. Think about ecosystem partners and identify the ones that can help. Perhaps they bring the technology component, or the training component. Work together to meet the needs of all workers.

Think about the time horizon for preparing people for the future of work. To skill workers for the future, you should look at the next three to five years and determine what will be the necessary skills in the market. Allow sufficient time to develop those skills.


The future of work is happening now. What is your plan to give all workers the skills they need to succeed?

Source: Accenture


Cambodia: Industry ministry rolls out KhmerSME information portal

The Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation has rolled out the KhmerSME website to provide micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) access to comprehensive business information, as well as ASEAN and global markets.

The website is primarily designed to build and strengthen the production, operational and service capacities of MSMEs – with emphasis on growing micro businesses into small enterprises – and promote effective competition in the interest of consumers.

A launch ceremony was held on October 28, presided over by industry minister Cham Prasidh and attended by representatives of embassies, ministries and other state institutions, international organisations and the private sector.

The website “will accelerate the capacities and development of MSMEs in Cambodia to become a driving force and thereby contribute to resilient economic growth and social development”, according to the ministry.

The ministry developed the website, which it terms a “national digital information platform”, in collaboration with Germany’s Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Interationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The site will be linked to the ASEAN Access portal, which was launched on June 16 to serve MSMEs in the region.

For full article, please check this links


Author: May Kunmakara

Source: The Phnom Penh Post

Publication date: 31 October 2021

Online platforms enhance entrepreneurship opportunities for vulnerable sectors—report

The government should pursue policies that reskill the workforce and enhance the digital skills of the population because online platforms can enhance livelihood and entrepreneurship opportunities, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in a new policy note.

“Amid the ongoing pandemic brought by the coronavirus disease 2019, online platforms not only provide a supplementary income source for people but also improve the economic participation and empowerment of vulnerable sectors, such as women and homemakers,” the report, titled “Gender Perspectives in E-Livelihood and E-Entrepreneurship,” said.

The paper also found that online entrepreneurship provides a channel for unemployed individuals and those not in the labor force to find livelihood opportunities outside the formal labor market.

However, it also said only around one in 20 people, regardless of sex, engage in online selling, noting that a certain level of technical proficiency and digital skills is needed to engage in online entrepreneurship.

“Therefore, it is crucial to regularly measure and monitor the digital literacy skills of the population so that appropriate capacity development activities for the labor market can be implemented,” said report authors Aubrey D. Tabuga and Carlos C. Cabaero.

But while digital platforms facilitate e-livelihood and e-entrepreneurship by matching buyers and sellers of products and services, they cannot be harnessed effectively to address inequalities without a facilitative policy environment to narrow the digital divide, the paper added.

The socioeconomic policy think tank thus recommends that the government invest in the reskilling of older and less educated individuals, particularly those in the underserved and poorer segment of the population, on the practical applications of information and communications technology (ICT).

It is also important to enhance the general population’s knowledge and use of online platforms to improve people’s ability to reap the benefits of ICT equitably.

PIDS said data from the 2019 National ICT Household Survey (NICTHS), the country’s first household survey on ICT usage, showed that online platforms offer livelihood opportunities, especially for women who cannot participate in the economy otherwise.

“Therefore, current and future capacity development programs must focus on enhancing women’s and men’s life skills and work skills. However, gaining the proper digital skills may not be enough for women whose economic empowerment is likely not maximized because of their disproportionate share in unpaid care work.”

Apart from gender issues, various challenges—poverty, gaps in skills, and lack of access to technology, formal institutions, and infrastructure—limit a person’s ability to take advantage of online platforms for various welfare-enhancing activities. Digital platforms should promote social welfare, including access to social protection programs and livelihood opportunities, the paper said.

Moreover, apart from the lack of knowledge to effectively use online resources and ICT tools, the government must also address the challenges of access to technology and formal institutions, such as electronic banking and online government transactions.

“Finally, improving digital infrastructure, such as mobile internet connection across the country, is vital to allow greater ICT engagement among Filipinos—women and men alike—so that everyone is better equipped to benefit from the digital dividends,” the report said.

Acceleration of digital trade facilitation implementation could cut trade costs

Speeding up the implementation of digital trade schemes could reduce average trade costs in the Asia Pacific region by over 13 percent, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Report 2021 highlights that cross-border trade digitalization has great potential to help countries in Asia and the Pacific access critical goods, especially those most vulnerable to trade uncertainty and crisis.

Based on the latest data available, its analysis presented confirms that digital trade facilitation measures can result in significant benefits to the countries in the region.

“Full digital trade facilitation implementation beyond the WTO TFA (World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement) could cut average trade cost in the region by over 13 percent, 7 percentage points more than what could be expected from implementation of the WTO TFA,” it said.

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, said result suggests that the Framework Agreement on Facilitation of Cross-Border Paperless Trade in Asia and the Pacific --a United Nations treaty that entered into force in early 2021-- “provides a dedicated, inclusive, and capacity-building-focused intergovernmental platform to pursue this agenda.”

The report said the 2021 survey shows that the WTO TFA-related measures have been well implemented throughout the region by improving transparency (81.7 percent), streamlining the formalities (75.5percent), and enhancing institutional arrangement and cooperation mechanisms (68.4 percent).

However, implementation of cross-border paperless trade remains challenging with a regional average implementation rate below 40 percent despite continued improvement of digital infrastructure to facilitate trusted and secure sharing of trade-related data and documents in electronic form, it said.

“Implementation of bilateral and subregional paperless trade systems remain mostly at the pilot stage, although the pandemic contributed to the acceleration of digital transformation,” it added.

Bambang Susantono, ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, said the disruptions of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak have underscored the important role trade facilitation plays in economies and will play in the recovery.

“The pandemic also revealed the need for digital, paperless trade procedures to facilitate cross-border movement of critical goods during global health emergencies, while maintaining open trade regimes to maintain equitable access to essential goods,” he said.

Alisjahbana said measures are specifically needed to support small and medium-sized enterprises, women, and the agricultural sector to make the recovery more sustainable.

FDA aims to publish final food traceability rule by November 2022

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently working to develop a final rule to enhance the traceability recordkeeping for some food products necessary to protect the public health.

US FDA consumer safety officer Amelia Tetterton said the agency is receiving comments and expects to publish the final rule set forth in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) section 204 governing food traceability requirements by Nov. 7, 2022.

“If finalized, the rule would become effective 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Compliance date for all covered entities would be two years from the effective date of the final regulation,” she said in a webinar.

Tetterton said the proposed rule requires covered persons to maintain records for food on the food traceability list (FTL) that will support more efficient and accurate traceability of potentially contaminated food.

“When a food borne illness outbreak occurs, (there is a) need to quickly identify and remove contaminated food from (the) market to avoid additional illnesses/deaths,” she said.

Tetterton said the food traceability proposed rule also limits the scope of recalls, establishes harmonized information, aligns with current industry approaches, and enhances ability to conduct root cause investigations to identify and apply lessons learned from outbreaks.

“Need accurate information on the food to trace it back through the supply chain to identify the source and also forward to determine how the food was distributed,” she added.

Tetterton said the proposed rule touches the whole supply chain from farms and facilities to retail food establishments, includes both foreign and domestic entities, only applies to certain foods, has some exemptions and partial exemptions, and co-proposal on retail food establishments.

She said proposed requirements include critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs).

CTEs include growing, receiving, transforming, creating, and shipping wherein records would be required, she added.

Tetterton said required records would need to contain specific KDEs depending on the CTE being performed.

“The KDEs required would vary depending on the CTE that is being performed. The records required at each CTE would need to contain and link the traceability lot code of the food to the relevant KDEs,” she said.

Tetterton further said the record requirements would apply to all foods on the FTL which include foods that contain foods on the list as ingredients.

FTL for requirements for additional traceability records described in the proposed rule includes cheeses, shell eggs, nut butter, cucumbers (fresh), herbs (fresh), leafy greens (fresh), melons (fresh), peppers (fresh), sprouts (fresh), tomatoes (fresh), tropical tree fruits (fresh), fruits and vegetables (fresh cut), finfish, crustaceans, mollusks/bivalves, and ready-to-eat deli salads, according to FDA website.

She added violations of the recordkeeping requirements is a prohibited act under section 301(e) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, except when such violation is committed by a farm.

Study: government policies should look at pandemic lessons to rebuild economy

The government should look at the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to rebuild a better post-pandemic Philippines, one that is equipped with proper safeguards from such catastrophes to prevent the reversal of years of economic growth and progress, according to a new report. 

The discussion paper, newly released by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, said rebuilding a better Philippines will involve actions and policies that help make businesses more ethical, pursue green and inclusive recovery, and maintain a robust and healthy workforce.

For ethical businesses, companies should be enjoined to adopt universally recognized environmental, social, and corporate governance metrics to help reduce inequality and strengthen discipline in company activities, said the report, entitled Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-Pandemic World. 

The country’s competition framework must also be further strengthened and an equal environment for different businesses in similar industries must be created. 

For green and inclusive recovery, authors Adoracion Navarro, Margarita Debuque-Gonzales and Kris Francisco urged the government to make space for “greening” in the stimulus packages, such as in the short-term stimulus for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). 

“Short-term stimulus packages for MSMEs have a swift turnaround and can quickly create jobs. These can be expanded from more than wage subsidies to cover also support for accelerated adoption of sustainable solutions and technologies, such as cleaner production processes, pollution prevention systems, water and energy reduction techniques, recyclable biodegradable packaging solutions, solid and liquid waste management initiatives, and efficiency enhancing digital technologies,” the paper said. 

“With the expansion of economic activities that will be supported by stimulus packages, the economy will regain old jobs lost and absorb newly created ones. This will also give the MSMEs the push to capture the value added from green growth opportunities in the medium to long term.”  

Moreover, in the rescue packages for large strategic industries, the support can either impose conditions to adopt green practices or offer rewards for their green and resilience-building initiatives, or both. 

The infrastructure program can also be turned into an opportunity for green recovery by creating a pipeline of needed climate-smart infrastructure projects and tapping climate financing and public-private partnerships for these.

The Philippines must also identify and invest in green growth areas, such as productive and regenerative agriculture, sustainable urban development and transport, clean energy transition, circular economy, and healthy and productive oceans. 

Investment opportunities must also be seized in areas where addressing the problem is a huge challenge, such as in waste management and ecosystem conservation activities. 

Finally, for a robust and healthy workforce, the country needs to invest heavily in reskilling and upskilling programs, especially in skills crucial for the future—problem-solving, self-management, working with people, and technology use and development.  
The social protection system also needs to be revamped to cover the growing employment in the gig economy and to strengthen the health support programs. 

The Philippines must also improve digital readiness and address the digital divide through government policies and public and private investments, the paper said. 

The workers of the future must also be included in government interventions, which can be through such strategies as improving teachers’ digital competencies, incorporating digital skills in student curriculums, and providing needed materials to both students and teachers. 

Resilience, adaptability drive top global consumer trends

Euromonitor International has identified the 10 emerging global consumer trends that gained traction this year and are expected to stay relevant in the year ahead. 

The “Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021” provides insight into changing consumer values, exploring how consumer behavior is shifting and causing disruption for businesses globally. 

The Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau recently highlighted these trends in a series of social media posts for local enterprises to take note of and incorporate into their marketing and business plans as another new year approaches.

Resilience and adaptability are the driving forces behind the top consumer trends in 2021. The pandemic created, influenced or accelerated each of these 10 trends, forever altering consumer behavior, the report by Euromonitor, a leading provider of global business intelligence and market analysis, said.

These 10 significant trends are:

•    Build back better. Consumers are now demanding that companies care beyond revenue, and they no longer perceive businesses as profit-driven entities. Protecting the health and interest of society is the new expectation, following COVID-19, in order to build back better.

•    Craving convenience. Consumers are craving the convenience of the pre-pandemic world, longing for the ease taken for granted before daily habits were upended. Businesses are under pressure to rapidly adapt their operations to develop a resilient customer experience while maintaining convenience. Companies must preserve the swift and seamless shopping journey across all channels.

•    Outdoor oasis. Health threats, indoor meetings and mobility restrictions and the rise of remote working have resulted in consumers turning to an outdoor oasis for leisure and recreation. Some are even considering moving from densely populated areas to rural areas. In response, businesses incorporated advanced health measures and moved events outside, allowing consumers to reconnect out of the home more safely. Companies should pivot their product development strategy to encompass the tranquility of rural living in urban environments to better satisfy city-scapers.

•    Phygital reality. In the new normal, physical and digital worlds have collided. Digital tools allow consumers to stay connected while at home and reenter the outside world safely as economies reopen. Phygital reality is a hybrid of physical and virtual worlds where consumers can seamlessly live, work, shop and play both in person and online. Businesses can integrate virtual processes into their physical spaces to give consumers who prefer to stay home the comfort to venture out instead. Delivering virtually enabled at-home experiences remains imperative to drive e-commerce sales and gather data.

•    Playing with time. Consumers are now both able and forced to be more creative with their time in order to get everything done. Businesses should provide solutions that address the consumer desire to maximize time, offering increased flexibility, especially with products and services that can be accessed from or near the home.

•    Restless and rebellious. Consumers are fed up. Distrust in leadership has become the norm. Bias and misinformation are causing a crisis of confidence. Having suffered, put others first and gone without, these self-care aficionados are now rebelling, placing their own needs and wants first. Companies can cater to this trend via more precise marketing on social media and gaming, where they can give consumers a voice and pressure social giants to take on misinformation.

•    Safety obsessed. The fear of infection and increased health awareness drive demand for hygiene products and push consumers towards contactless solutions to avoid exposure. Companies should implement enhanced safety measures and innovation that target these concerns to reassure consumers. 

•    Shaken and stirred. The global pandemic reconfigured daily lives, testing mental resilience, restricting experiences and provoking economic shocks. Consumers have a new understanding of themselves and their place in the world in pursuit of a more fulfilled, balanced and self-improved life. Businesses must provide products and services that support resiliency for mental wellbeing and help consumers weather adverse circumstances. 

•    Thoughtful thrifters. Discretionary spending is declining due to the uncertain economic environment as consumers prioritize value-added and health-conscious products and services. Companies should pivot towards value-for-money propositions, offering affordable options without sacrificing quality. Premium attributes should be reinforced with a new empathetic story and have a strong tie-in with health and wellness, self-care or mental wellbeing.

•    Workplaces in new spaces. Out of office took a new meaning in 2020. Consumers are searching for new ways to define the beginning and end of their workdays, as they struggle to manage their time. Businesses must support work-life balance, productivity and communication needs. Understanding the benefits and challenges of working remotely allows companies to bring the best of the office into the home.