FILIPINO businesses should seize the huge opportunities offered by the global halal food trade now reaching $580 billion to $632 billion annually.
This was bared in a seminar by Suraida Usodan-Guro, country desk officer of Asean/Other Asia Division of the Department of Trade and Industry's Bureau of Export Trade Promotion.
Guro said 1.6 billion to 1.8 billion Muslims based in almost 140 countries, which occupy all income brackets and eat widest range of food, prefer halal products.
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"This accounts for 16 percent of the global food market of almost $4 trillion in 2009," she said.
Guro identified major halal markets including France, United Kingdom, Asia, Middle East, Africa, United States and European countries.
The Middle East is the largest market for halal products, she said, noting its countries have one of the highest per capita income in the world, have the highest rates of population growth in the world, and import a significant proportion of their food needs.
"Example, in one of our bureau's business missions to the Middle East, five company participants were able to book $4 million and under negotiation reached more than $10 million," she said.
Apart from these countries, Guro said the cross-over market or the non-Muslims also buy halal-certified products.
"Significantly, unquantifiable numbers of non-Muslims eat halal food, partly by coincidence, but increasingly by choice," she said. "Halal food appeals to health-conscious consumers and those concerned about food safety, as well as people drawn to various ethnic cuisines."
Guro pointed out that in the Philippine market alone, there is a Muslim population of eight to 10 million and also cross-over consumers for halal products.
"The Philippines can really be a player in the halal market because of its strategic location and because of existing good relations with most of the Muslim countries. We are strategically located in Southeast Asia," she said.
To this end, Guro advised businesses to participate in international expositions for halal products and services. Beginners may participate in local trade fairs organized by the DTI.
"Expositions serve to provide exhibitors with opportunities to meet industry peers and authorities, network and create further business opportunities," she said.
Guro said there are local halal certifiers mostly based in Metro Manila. A few of them are located in Mindanao.