Halal market still largely untapped in the country

HUGE MARKETING opportunities through halal foods are open for
local food and agriculture firms amid the global economic slowdown,
industry and government officials said.

“Given the low level of agricultural technology and the natural
features that can hardly support agricultural activities in many
[Middle East] countries… a significant portion of the supply must
therefore come from exogenous source,” said Imelda J. Madarang,
vice-president and general manager of the RFM Corp.’s Export Division,
during the Food Industry Summit in Makati last week.

“Most of the Muslim countries are net food importers and
therefore do not only evoke security concerns but provide golden
opportunities for us,” Ms. Madarang added.

Muslims must ensure that the food they consume adhere to halal — “permissible” in Arabic — requirements of Islamic law.

Halal-certified food and non-food products are so labeled to
inform consumers that these are free of pork, lard from swine and
alcohol. The global halal market is expected to expand to $500 billion
in 2010 from the present $200 billion. For instance, Europe has a 51.2
million Muslim population that has a spending power of about €30
billion annually.

In the country, a tenth of the total population or nine million Muslims, are potential consumers of halal goods.

However, Ustadz Esmael W. Ebrahim, vice-president for External
Affairs of the National Halal Accreditation Board of the Philippines,
Inc., said in his presentation that “this has not been sufficiently
tapped by the halal players in the Philippines.”

Since 2006, the country has managed to certify 400 products,
which are produced by some 55 companies, as halal. But some of the
supposed halal-compliant products are still suspect, he said.

To tap the halal market, Ms. Madarang said policy measures
should be developed to lower production costs and develop agriculture
to support a strong manufacturing base for halal goods.

For its part, officials of the Agriculture department said they
were in preliminary talks with Brunei and Kuwait for a P3.04-billion
investment to develop the Halal Economic Ecozone in Davao City and put
up a Halal model poultry farm in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis

“The food processing industry and the government, through the
Trade department, has established a halal desk,” Roberto Amores,
president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization,
Inc., said in a phone interview. “They will be assisting actively those
qualified enterprises,” he added.

Filipino food exporters booked sales worth $19.91 million during the Halal World Expo 2008 in the UAE. — Neil Jerome C. Morales