The Department of Education (DepEd) Order No. 13, series of 2017, presents an opportunity for agri-startups in the country to capture the market in public schools and DepEd offices.
Agri-startups, particularly those into food and beverages, now have an opportunity to expand their market and to increase purchases from farmers who supply the raw materials.
DepEd Order No. 13 articulates the department’s policy and guidelines on healthy food and beverages in schools and DepEd offices. The order intends to make available to school children and DepEd personnel healthy food and beverages and provide guidance on categorizing them.
The order also suggests that local governments regulate the sale of food and beverages in school vicinities.
For the longest time, local beverage and food processorshave difficulty penetrating the local market as big companies dominate the market often with millions of pesos allotted for product packaging and promotion.
The limits in the market of startups also limits the volume of their purchases from farmers, who are not motivated to expand production areas or replace crops no longer as prolific as they used to.
Schools represent a big chunk of the potential market of food and beverages for agri-startups.
The DepEd Division of Eastern Samar, for example, has 417 public elementary schools, 27 of them are central schools, and 53 are public secondary schools. The grade school population is placed at 52, 351 and the high school population is 33,000.
If all the 27 central elementary schools and the 53 high schools in Eastern Samar have canteens, which are probably the case, then there would be at least 80 school canteens in the province.
A few of the remaining schools might also have canteensbut let’s start with the 80 and do the math.
If 200 students would enter each of the 80 canteens every school day,that would mean 16,000 students entering the canteenswhich is not improbable given the student population of the province.
If each student spends at least P5 to buy food or beverage from the canteens, that means students in the province spend at least P80,000every school day.
A school year has at least 200 school days. In one year, students in the whole of Eastern Samar could spend as much as P16 million to buy food and beverages from their canteens.
If the amount will go to buy the products of local startups, then more jobs will be created by these startups, and more produce will be purchased from local farmers. This would also mean income for the canteens and more business taxes for local governments.
DepEd can facilitate the entry of these startups into the school canteens. But to gain access, these startups need to enhance their products to comply with the DepEd standards, particularly those articulated in DepEd Order No. 13.
Somebody should provide product development assistance to the startups, which would include analysis of nutrition content, licensing of the products and enhancing their quality and packaging.
DepEd only intended to keep the kids healthy when it issued the orderbut the order can also make local economies vibrant if locally-made food and beverages would make it into school canteens. Should this happen, DepEd will be contributing a lot to the reduction of poverty in Eastern Visayas sooner rather than later.