THERE’S BIG OPPORTUNITY IN HALAL FOODS

By Henrylito D. Tacio

There’s money in halal foods. And the Philippines has yet to cash in
on the potential export market niche. But some issues and concerns
have to addressed first before the country can join multi-million
industry offered by the halal food market.

This came out in a survey conducted by N.D. Naanep and co-researchers
from the Sultan Kudarat State University in Tacurong City . They took
a closer look at halal goat products, particularly in Region 12.

Halal is an Arabic word which means “lawful, permitted, or
acceptable.” When used in referring to consumables, halal means those
products that Muslims are allowed to eat and drink or use in the
observance of their Islamic faith.

“Halal is a way of life,” explained Hadji Horon Ngilay Espadilla, a
goat raiser from General Santos City and a Muslim widower (her
deceased husband was an Imam). “It includes the feelings and
emotions, the sense of family and community, the outlook, values and
the godliness of the person.”

To Muslims, this clean living as empowered by the Qu’ran is parallel
to the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Christian Bible.

The survey was conducted in cooperation with the regional field unit
12 of the Department of Agriculture, Office of Muslims Affairs, and
the local governments units in various study sites. There were 253
respondents representing goat raisers, processors (halal restaurants),
and consumers.

The researchers wanted to gather benchmark information on
stakeholder’s levels of awareness on halal goat production and
processing; differences in the practices of raisers and processors,
and deviations from standard halal protocols. Consumers’ awareness
and opinions regarding locally available halal goat products were
likewise looked into.

The data were gathered from three cities (General Santos, Tacurong,
and Koronadal) and two municipalities (Kabacan, North Cotabato and
Maasim, Sarangani). A combination of structured questionnaires
followed by personal interviews or discussion with the respondents was
used.

The survey found out that respondents’ age and education influenced
their awareness of halal goat production, while these factors did not
affect their knowledge of halal goat processing practices.

It was also determined that smallhold farmers do not consistently
observe goat production practices based on their “do not practice
them” and “practice them sometimes” responses. Butchers level of
halal goat processing practices likewise varied from “practice
sometimes” to “practice often.”

Production practices focused more on the technical aspects of raising
the animals, while butchering (which also included pre-butchering) and
processing practices focused more on religious-related considerations.

“The development of a halal food industry will not only cater to the
needs of Muslim consumers, it will also lead to the development of
related agri-based products and allied industries which will provide
alternative sources of livelihood among Filipinos, Muslims, and
non-Muslims alike,” the study concluded.

But the Philippines has still a long, long way to go if it has to tap
the multi-million dollar industry of halal foods.

For one, there is still much to learn about how halal foods are
prepared. “Halal is not just how food is processed, handled, and
sanctified or cleansed by a prayer during the sumbali (religious rite)
performed by an Imam; it embodies a wide garment of pre-requisites
from how the crop or animal was raised, how clean (externally and
spiritually) the producer was, how the product was handled during
processing, and how ‘halal’ the ingredients and supplements were,”
wrote Dr. Edwin C. Villar in an article which appeared in The PCARRD
Monitor.

Unlike in other Asian countries, the Philippines still has no standard
protocol or husbandry or raising halal goat. “At the moment, goats
raised by Muslim farmers are classified as halal and acceptable to
local consumers in the area,” said Dr. Villar, who is the head of the
livestock division of the Laguna-based Philippine Council for
Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development
(PCARRD).

“By word of mouth, the reputation of the producer of halal goat is
disseminated in the locality and they become the source of acceptable
halal goat,” Dr. Villar added.

However, it does not necessarily follow that these people – who are
considered to be producers of halal goat – can easily market their
products outside of their area. “Some customers outside the locality
still question the authenticity or ‘halal-ness’ of their products,”
Dr. Villar pointed out.

Even Muslim consumers and raisers themselves don’t have a standard or
uniform set of yardstick upon which to measure set how halal is the
goat products. As for non-Muslims, they sell live goats branded as
halal after an Imam has performed the sumbali and the animals slitted
with a dedicated knife or dagger to properly bleed the animal clean.

“There are several practices prescribed in the Qu’ran and in the
Philippine National Standard on Halal Food that has to be complied
with, otherwise the product is recognized as ‘harm’ or unacceptable by
the Muslims,” Dr. Villar said.

Indeed, the Philippines has to come up with its own protocol and
standards at par with the international market. “Gauging from the
potentials for halal foods in the international scene, goat can be a
convenient start for a big opportunity for our farmers, particularly
those in Region 12,” Dr. Villar concluded.

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