>CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to conduct consultation with leading Cebu business stakeholders regarding a proposal to finalize the Philippine’s halal food standards – a move expected to boost the country’s agricultural produce in the global halal market. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that he has instructed the DA’s Halal Food Industry Development Committee to conduct such consultative meeting with stakeholders to refine the proposed standards. The consultative meeting for Cebu is slated next month. The halal food industry, said Alcala, is considered a lucrative market, with estimates coming to a whopping $2.3 trillion. “This will help to contribute in increasing the country’s food exports and revitalize the agri-fishery enterprise to benefit Filipino farmers and fisherfolks,” the DA Secretary said. According to Alcala, the standards will pave the way for the establishment of world-class halal food production and processing enterprises and create employment opportunities for thousands of Filipinos. Philexport Cebu Executive Director Fred Escalona said however that while the halal market is an emerging opportunity for the country, there are market requirements that need to be addressed.
“We need to harmonize our protocols and procedures. And we need to be highly competitive,” pointed out Escalona. Requirements that need to be complied with include specific provisions for each food product group even as issues on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must be addressed. When finalized, the three Philippine halal code of standards will be presented to the Asean Technical Working Group on Halal Food and the World Halal Forum, to be held in Malaysia th is April. Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) President, Marco Protacio meanwhile believes that the presence of halal-certified restaurants in the country would help lure in more Middle East tourists. Halal is an Arabic word that translates to any object or action permissible to use or engage in accordance with Islamic law. Halal certification assures Muslims that ingredients and production methods have been tested and declared permissible by an acceptable certification body.