The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its attached agency, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), spearheaded the recent Philippine participation in three of the world's most important Halal-centered food shows to carve a slice of the US$661 billion world Halal market and thereby strengthened Philippine food exports globally.
These shows were UAE's Gulf Food Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire (GULFOOD) held last 19-22 February, the 9th Malaysia International Halal Show (MIHAS) held on 4-7 April, and Singapore's Food and Hotel Asia 2012 (FHA) held last 17-20 April.
"We recognize the positive impact of joining these overseas fairs as contributory to the 21 percent increase to our US$2.57 billion food exports so far this year," said Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo.
"The Philippine reputation as a reliable agri-food supplier was affirmed as we were able to successfully explore opportunities in Halal for our exporters as well as generate international awareness on our local Halal sector and its potential in terms of investments," he added.
"Our presence in these shows showcased our diverse Halal products and capabilities to the world and exposed our local players to the stringent demands of the Halal market," said Rosvi C. Gaetos, Executive Director of CITEM.
Under CITEM, the Philippines marketed its food exports under the banner of Food Philippines, a national branding that celebrates the country's abundance of tropical flavors and ingredients. Also emphasized was the safety and quality of the Halal-certified commodities being exhibited, such as dried fruits, sardines, coconut-based products and condiments.
The Philippine participation in Gulfood, the Middle East's largest food and hospitality event scored US48.6 million in total export sales - the biggest recorded sales in a single trade event.
It also captured the attention of Middle East retail giants Al Meera and Lulu, who are now under talks to feature in-store promotions of Philippine products in their stores.
The first ever Philippine participation in MIHAS, the world's largest congregation of Halal industry players, generated US$6.26 million in exports. Bestsellers included microwaveable milkfish, coconut sugar, processed chicken and beef, biscuits, cakes and pastries, and major fruits such as pineapple, banana and mango.
Another first-time trade venture was made in April with the Philippine participation in Singapore's FHA, posting US$8.5 million in export sales.
Gaetos said that focusing on the US$418 billion Asian Halal market was part of a strategic positioning of the country as an attractive Halal food source as pursuant to the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP).
The said plan supports the development of the local Halal market by accrediting more Halal-certifying bodies and strengthening the capabilities of local food manufacturers to meet stringent Halal requirements.
She also said that focusing on Asia is easier for local manufacturers because of "the similarities in food tastes and preferences, the proximity of dealing with nearby markets, and the Foreign Trade Agreements already in place that support inter-and intra-Asian trade and investment."
A report from the 2009 World Halal Forum shows that around 1.6 billion Muslims adhere to Halal, an Islamic religious standard that prescribes the use or consumption of products.
The rise of the global Halal market in the past decade, which saw an increase of 12.6 percent from 2004 to 2010, is attributed to the growing Muslim population in regions experiencing strong economic growth such as Asian nations Malaysia, Indonesia, China, India, the UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia; their subsequent rising per capita incomes; and the emergent consumer market of non-Muslims drawn to the safe and healthy reputation of Halal commodities.
Gaetos shared that CITEM is also giving a bigger focus on the country's Halal food products with the relaunching of its signature trade event for food, the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines: Asia's Ethnic Food and Ingredients Show on 16-19 May 2013 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
In order to woo local and foreign Halal exhibitors, the agency has had initial talks with the Halal Development Council of Malaysia on the possibility of conducting trainings and seminars on Halal best practices for the food service and food manufacturing sectors.
It also is in discussions with Brunei Halal, a Brunei government brand initiative aiming to make Brunei Darussalam a major Halal player worldwide, to hold similar educational Halal lectures during the event.