RP exporters make $19.9M in sales at UAE's Halal World Expo

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino exporters have sold food products totaling $19.91 million in the Halal World Expo 2008 in the United Arab Emirates, Agriculture department officials said.

Assistant Secretary Clayton Olalia said in his report to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap that the response to Filipino food exporters bodes well for ongoing efforts to help exporters corner a significant share of the $500-billion global Halal market.

Halal refers to the kind of food permissible under Islamic Law.

Olalia, who led the team to the Halal Expo held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibit Center in mid-November, said C’est La Vie has already formalized part of these booked orders by signing a supply and purchase contract with UAE buyers for processed tuna and processed mango products worth $960,000 a year for two years. It also booked sales for Cavendish and Cardaba bananas and fresh mangoes.

Beaches Farm and Trading Corp. signed contracts with UAE buyers for white table eggs worth $1.98 million a year for two years and Florence Foods for its products worth $960,000 a year for two years.

Olalia, assistant secretary for administration and in charge of the Halal sector, said Beaches Farm also formalized contracts for the one-year supply to Iran of dessicated coconuts worth $60,000, fresh Cavendish bananas worth $1.08 million and canned pineapples worth $1.3 million.

He said the country has a competitive edge in the Halal trade because it is free of both the avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus and the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

The combined food bill of the Middle East grew a hefty 25% from $16 billion in 2006 to $20 billion in 2007, with the UAE alone accounting for $4 billion.

Due to UAE’s “strategic business location as an active and challenging market as well as a re-export hub in the Middle East and Africa," Olalia said the Philippines can “look ahead to major expansions in trade," particularly in exports of food and related agricultural products.

The UAE is the top export market of the Philippines in the Middle East and Africa. UAE gave Halal accreditation to the Philippines in June 2006.

The Philippines, specifically Mindanao, can count on a reliable supply of feed ingredients like corn, rice, copra meal and fishmeal to make its Halal food exports credible and genuine, he said.

Besides recently launching the Philippine National Standards for Halal Foods, the Arroyo administration, through the Agriculture department, has built 12 Halal abattoirs in the South, mostly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The department has likewise provided technical assistance through the National Meat Inspection Service, which recently conducted a “Basic Halal Meat Inspection Training Course," funded by the ARMM regional government.

As an active member of the Asean Working Group on Halal Food Guidelines, the Philippines has also been involved in the Asean-wide cooperation on Halal food industry development since the early 1990s, when the Halal food export business was just starting to grow in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.

The exporters that participated in the expo were AgriNurture, Inc., Beaches Farms and Trading Corp., C’Est La Vie Food Phil. Inc., Florence Foods Corp., Guaranfood Manufacturing, Q-Phil Products International, RFM Corp., Sr. Pedro Lechon Manok and Visayas Chamber of Mango Industry MPC.