The Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing innovative solutions and strategies that would push the mainstreaming of Halal food production for food security and economic development.
Dr. Norodin Kuit, DA-Halal Food Industry Development Program national coordinator, said on Friday that aside from targets in achieving food staples sufficiency in the country, the government will also have to boost support for the livestock and poultry sector.
“This will further stimulate productivity and gain wider market niches, we have to expand our perspective to harness emerging global opportunities for our producers,” he said.
One of these markets is the growing global market for Halal foods, estimated at $2.95 billion for meat alone, that other non-Muslim countries such as Brazil, Thailand, Australia and Belgium have successfully tapped.
In the 2004-2010 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) crafted by the National Economic and Development Authority, Mindanao was cited as having all the requirements for a Halal industry, and can be the country’s Halal food basket.
The MTPDP also said that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), being the only region in the Philippines with a Muslim identity, is the focal area for the development of the country’s Halal industry.
“Today, the time has come to put into action what had been conceived in recent years. In fact our very own Agriculture Secretary [Proceso] Alcala had issued directives to mainstream Halal food production into our national food production effort,” he said.
In recent years, the establishment of the necessary groundwork for Halal food production had taken place.
The Philippine National Standard (PNS) for Halal Food, the code of Halal Slaughtering Practices and the protocol for Halal Certification was generated by a group of national agencies such as the DA, Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Muslim Affairs (now the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos).
The ARMM also developed its own Halal Food Industry Master Plan and Certification Body.
According to Kuit, a number of Philippine food exporters can attest to the existence of Halal market niches in Middle East countries that can be supplied by local companies.
“We cannot just watch while our neighbors’ Halal food industries move on to meet their local demands as well as those of the global markets,” he said, noting that earlier efforts to export chicken to the Middle East met some difficulties owing to the stringent global Halal certification protocols.
“We must call upon our local government units to take on the challenge by main–streaming production initiatives with the DA and other institutions,” he said.
“We have a lot of catching up to do. And we should be confident that with increasing dynamism in the agricultural sector, Halal food industry in the country would not anymore be treated as an alien concept but a home-grown production drive forming part of our national food sufficiency effort,” Kuit added.