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Government eyes bigger share of $2.6-T halal market

MANILA, Philippines — The government is ramping up efforts to capture a bigger share of the $2.6 trillion global halal industry in a bid to further develop the local agriculture sector and boost the country’s trade relations.

While the Department of Agriculture (DA) admitted it would take decades to be at par with neighbouring ASEAN countries which are prioritizing the halal industry, the government is stepping up its interventions to be able to compete in the region and even globally.

In an interview with The STAR, Undersecretary for Special Concerns Ranibai Dilangalen, who is also in charge of DA’s halal efforts, said the halal program has been approved to be part of the agency’s  banner programs with an initial P44 million budget next year.

“We are very late compared to other countries like Malaysia which is the pioneer country for halal and even Thailand and Indonesia which have become so aggressive. It will really take us decades before we equate with them,” Dilangalen said.

“But what we can promise is to execute and implement our program. Doing that, we will at least be given that recognition that we are competing in the halal industry. That would impress the public not only in the Philippines but also in Asia and Middle East, that our halal industry is also growing,” she added.

Halal is an Arabic word for “permissible” and usually applies to food allowed under Islamic law. The term also covers items like banking, finance, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and logistics.

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While halal has been discussed even with the past administrations, the huge and lucrative halal market has not really progressed which in turn prevented the country from tapping the industry’s potential to expand food exports and revitalize agri-fishery agribusiness enterprises.

Having a halal food standard would pave the way for world-class halal food production and processing enterprises that would eventually create employment opportunities for Filipinos.

For the first time, the DA crafted a 10-year halal roadmap which aims to address the gaps in the industry. The roadmap is expected to be launched in December.

“The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) said they are also interested in the roadmap. Other related agencies can also replicate and enhance our roadmap. We have also created a halal management office, another first for the country,” Dilangalen said.

“As part of our budget, we will also do trainings, seminar, advocacies, and orientations. We have requested an additional P20 million for production support,” she added.

As DA is in charge of production, one of its major challenges is the production of cattle and poultry, as well as the lack of halal-certified facilities like slaughterhouses and cold storage facilities.

“We only have one halal slaughterhouse located in Cotabato City and it is just AA which means it is just for local consumption,” Dilangalen said.

Slaughterhouses are abattoirs with the proper facilities for export production while A and AA slaughterhouses are equipped to serve the domestic market. A-rated abattoirs have a lesser production capacity than AA-rated ones.

“We cannot upgrade that slaughterhouse into AAA because that would entail an investment of P60 million to P90 million,  We have to address the bigger problem which is production,” she said.

The DA has already crafted its roadmap on  livestock aimed at increasing cattle production to support the development of the local  halal industry.

It plans to build more AA slaughterhouses in at least four regions in Mindanao where halal is a priority.

These areas include Zamboanga Peninsula, Soccsksargen, Davao region, and Northern Mindanao.

The Philippines, through the DA, will host its first halal food festival in Abu Dhabi next month to exhibit halal-certified products.  The exposition will be attended by businessmen from the United Arab Emirates and other nearby Middle Eastern countries.

It will also host a local halal trade fair in Davao in November to showcase Filipino businessmen and their halal products.

To recall, the Philippines and Brunei also agreed to cooperate in developing their halal industry through strengthening and deepening bilateral trade and economic relations to explore further opportunities including greater business exchanges and cooperation.

The agreement provides the framework for bilateral cooperation to mutually develop each other’s halal industry and products and services through exchange of investment, products, technology and best practices.

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