Australia Awards Women Trading Globally participant exports traditional Filipino hot chocolate to Australia
Mary Grace Belviz of Rosarios Delicacies, a chocolatier and durian grower based in Davao City, Philippines, was selected to participate during May to June 2019 in the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally program, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This cohort included 15 female entrepreneurs from South East Asia and Mongolia who visited Brisbane and Sydney to undertake training to develop their export readiness skills.
Q&A with Mary Grace Belviz
Owner/Manager, Rosarios Delicacies
What led you to establish your company, and what drove you to commence international expansion?Rosarios Delicacies was established mainly to utilise the surplus harvest of the farm (Belviz Farms - owned and managed by my husband and my late father-in-law who passed away in 2016), but because it gained a lot of support and opportunity, we wanted to take it further in order to support a lot more people through jobs, and also to establish Davao City as one of the leaders in durian and cacao farming and processing in the Philippines.
Before, we did not pursue the international market because of a lack of understanding. What we knew is that the international market is difficult as you need not only certifications and investment to food safety and quality, but also large volume to export.
We decided to try exporting when a Japanese buyer approached and encouraged us to bring our frozen durian to Japan. Also, with the support of the government agencies in Davao such as DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and DA (Department of Agriculture), we are able to grab the opportunity to approach the international market by attending international trade fairs.
Especially after attending the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally program, I have gained newfound confidence that we will be able to tackle the international market through the invaluable knowledge I learned in terms of international exports. With the increasing competition in the local market, one must take another step to level up the business. We decided that the step we would take will be through international export, as by securing the credibility of the product as export-quality, we will be able to sell our product easier.
Due to the pandemic, there is a need to find another market to continue to create jobs in our own way, and even if it is not that big, we were able to contribute to the economic growth of our country. And lastly, by becoming an international exporter, we hope it would shed light on the importance of the farmers in the country and motivate others to respect and take farming as a job.
- you must firstly find the reason why you need to pursue the global market, and weigh in the cost and benefits it could bring to your company and to the community;
- the importance of planning and learning the basics of exporting, especially the documentation needed and the target market determination; and
- the importance of a SWOT analysis in keeping the business up with the changes that are constantly occurring.
Through the Women Trading Globally program, I was able to meet a lot of outstanding women in their own fields of expertise. We were able to exchange a lot of ideas, which I took home as lessons.
During the training, I was able to meet an Australian volunteer working in an NGO called Noble Endeavours Philippines. They are a homegrown charity with a passion to improve the lives of people living in some of the poorest communities in the Philippines. Their aim is to help break the poverty cycle by equipping the local people to stand for themselves with a long term view of becoming self-generating, self-funding, self-reliant, and self-supporting. Currently, we supply them with tableya, a traditional Filipino chocolate drink made of ground cacao beans, and other cacao products for their gelato production, which comes from their milking goats.
Exporting to AustraliaOutside of the program activities, I was able to finally have a business meeting with our potential buyer from Melbourne, owner of Filo Artisan Trade, whom I’d already met in the Philippines in February 2019 through a colleague in Davao, before attending Women Trading Globally. We initially connected through his interest in introducing our tableya, a chocolate drink, to Australia.
We arranged to meet in Melbourne and I was able to learn more about his business goals. He also introduced me to his plan and how he is going to market our own products along with other Philippine products. His target market is mostly Filipinos who are currently residing in Australia. Since tableya is known to the hearts of the Filipinos as the traditional, rich, hot chocolate drink, he hoped that our tableya would remind the expatriates of home and to introduce it to the Australian citizens.
Our buyer made the first order of 200 packs Rosarios Premium Tableya Duos in June 2019. We currently stock tableya on the Filo Artisan Trade website, with another shipment taking place in July 2020.
What did you gain from the Women Trading Globally program?
As I was able to learn so much from the Women Trading Globally program in a short amount of time, I have gained confidence and knowledge which I immediately shared with my husband and employees. We become more aggressive and competent in terms of dealing with international clients, especially after the success of the Australian market penetration through Filo Artisan Trade, whom I had finally secured business with. I now have the confidence to export to other countries such as Japan. With the leadership skills I’ve gained, we were able to slowly but surely redirect our company’s vision and direction into what it could potentially be by employing organisation overhauls and proper long-term planning with our key personnel.
How have you been impacted by COVID-19 and how have you responded?
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on our company in terms of sales and productivity. We were hit the hardest during the first and second months of the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine. It is then we maximised our own farm since it is minimally affected during the pandemic, thus helping us sustain our operations and our employees.
We checked our financial status first, then assess and gather them. We braced ourselves for the financial hit and changed our priority from profit to survival. We gave our employees the assurance that nobody will be left behind during the pandemic, that whatever happens if worst comes to worst during the ECQ, that we will be able to feed and provide work to our employees because of our agricultural capacity through our farms.
We boosted the morale and the resiliency of our employees through our joined efforts and understanding with our employees and providing assistance through work changes and basic needs support. We put our employees first and together, with the help of God, we were able to survive through the ECQ crisis. We are now adapting to the new policies as the restriction eases.
We are currently pouring our efforts towards changing our product line and accessing as many electronic resources as possible to be able to ride the current wave of trend wherein people are now more into online shopping. We are also applying protocols that mitigate the risk of contracting the disease, ensuring the safety of not only our health but also the operations itself. We are doing this in line with our continuing organisation overhaul, as we believe we have to do it, or else we will be left behind.
We also change our production and marketing schemes but discontinuing products that are reliant on the tourism industry such as chocolates, durian candies, and other such products. We are realigning our efforts to export because that market outside is not as affected locally.