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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

UAE, Canadian investors eye halal ventures in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/25 May) -- Investors from the United Arab Emirates, particularly from Dubai, and Canada want to venture into the halal industry in Mindanao, a senior regional government official here told reporters over the weekend.

Zenaida P. Laida, Department of Science and Technology (DoST) director for Central Mindanao, said investors from these countries signified their interest after she presented the Halal industry initiatives in the country at the 3rd World Halal Forum in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago.

"A Canada-based based investor, for one, is looking for a Mindanao partner involved in (the manufacturing of) sweets that will be used for the production of marshmallows," Laidan said.

"The only problem, however, of foreign investors, like from Dubai, looking at dispensing Halal investments in Mindanao is the volatile peace and order condition of the island," she added.

Laidan noted the vast tracts of idle, fertile lands in Mindanao that can be utilized for halal livestock and plantation production by foreign investors.

She appeared bullish on the halal potential of the Philippines now that the country has finally "landed in the world halal map" through the invitation to speak at the World Halal Forum.

It was the first time that the Philippines was invited to speak at the forum since it started two years ago, she said.

This year's theme was "Sustained Development through Investment and Integration." Heads of states, trade ministers and halal experts from the fields of industry, science and Shariah Law around the globe took part in the annual forum initiated by Malaysia.

The global halal market has a putative monetary value of $580 billion with enormous potential for growth, industry figures said.

Halal could be food and non-food problems acceptable in Islam, the religion of Muslims.

"Before we get to the endpoint of Halal as a gold standard for consumers, we must develop the halal industry by bringing together best practices from all over the world, and this is what the World Halal Forum is about," said Khairy Jamaluddin, the forum's chair.

Laidan, the lone Muslim in the DoST, said she tackled at the forum the scientific and technical aspects of the halal industry development in the country.

"We are going to establish a halal laboratory and science research center which when fully operationalize within the year. This will ensure the halalness of the products," she said, adding the site would be in Koronadal City, the seat of government of Central Mindanao region.

The center will also integrate a business development tack mostly aimed in helping micro, small and medium enterprises carve a niche in the country's halal industry and eventually to the world.

An ulama- led national halal standards has already been crafted but it is still uncertain if Malacanang has endorsed.

Laidan said there is a need to review the standards to include scientific and technical aspects.

"I have nothing against the ulama (religious leaders). All I want is to ensure the credibility of our halal products and that can be ascertained only through rigid scientific and technical tests which we in the DOST will soon be able to do," she said.

"It will be the country that will be embarrassed if halal-certified products that will be shipped to other countries are discovered to be not halal at all," she said.

Laidan appealed to the different line government agencies, as well as private sector and civil society, to collaborate in helping develop the halal industry. (MindaNews)

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