According to provisional figures released by the Philippines’ Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions (Citem), the 24 companies exhibiting as part of the Philippines pavilion at the Dubai show beat their sales target of US$105m, as well as last year’s total of US$104.34m.
Fruit at the front
Among the most popular products with buyers at the show were Cavendish bananas, fresh and canned pineapple, oyster sauce, noodles, and coconut products including desiccated coconut, coconut water, virgin coconut oil and coconut sugar. Last year 26% of sales by Philippines companies came from coconut water and juice, 23% from dried fruit, and 18% from fresh fruit products.
Filipino exhibitors also debuted rice from the country for the first time at the show, with significant interest according to Citem. The trade body said coffee from the Philippines generated a lot of interest as well, and represented a significant new potential market for both whole beans and ground coffee products.
“With Gulfood as the world’s largest annual food and hospitality trade show, it opens up greater opportunities for local coffee bean growers, which can mean growth in the business,” said Rosvi C Gaetos, executive director of Citem.
Halal export struggles
Across all categories, one of the biggest challenges faced by Philippines exporters is getting their products ready for the Middle East market, including Halal certification. Citem said it has been working with firms to help them obtain all the necessary clearances for the region – although with changes to the Halal certification landscape, this is an evolving process.
“As for the assistance of Citem, we require the participants to be equipped with certifications and compliances to food safety requirements particularly the Halal certification for the Middle East market,” said Gaetos.
“In coordination with the Halal Secretariat at the Export Marketing Bureau, we are seeking further advice on how to connect the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) with the Halal food organisation body in the Philippines regarding facilitation and processing of licensing requirements for the national Halal Dubai mark which is for implementation next year,” she added.
Gaetos said Filipino exhibitors at Gulfood met with a compliance officer from ESMA during the show, to get more information on the new rules and guidelines that will come into force as part of Dubai’s new Halal mark.
Last month the Philippine paper Cebu Daily News quoted an official from the country’s Department of Trade and Industry as saying there was still a lot of work to do for the country’s exporters to be Halal-ready, with the requirement for UAE-certified products needing to be sent to the UAE for testing adding significantly to the cost.
Nevertheless, the DTI official said more than 500 Filipino companies received Halal certification in 2014 alone. He also suggested that non-certified products still made it to the GCC markets – but never appeared on shelves for public sale.