By Allen V. Estabillo
GENERAL SANTOS CITY - Food and agribusiness giant San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is reportedly planning to establish a modern feed mill in Manado, Indonesia in a bid to produce cheaper feed products for Mindanao's animal and halal poultry industries.
Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, chair of the Mindanao Economic and Development Council (Medco), said the company has signified to develop Manado and other areas in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province as primary source of cheaper corn and other raw materials for its feed processing operations.
He said one of the company's initial considerations in putting up a plant in Manado is to supply the needs of the halal poultry industry for corn-based feeds.
"The main problem of halal poultry is the price and supply of corn-based feeds so this proposed venture will be a big help in our efforts to sustain the industry," Leyretana said.
Leyretana said SMC's venture in Manado will directly benefit poultry and swine raisers in the island, which has direct shipping links with the Indonesian port city.
"Our corn is priced higher here than in Manado, so the company wants to put up a plant there to take advantage of its cheaper corn products," he said.
The commercial buying price of corn in Mindanao has fluctuated between P6 to P9 a kilo over the last decade, with the bulk of produce coming from the northern and southwestern Mindanao area.
No immediate data is available regarding the prices of corn in Indonesia but corn products from North Sulawesi that are unloaded at the Makar port here reportedly average at only P5 per kilo.
During a corn glut in Mindanao in the summer of 1998, local farmers raised a big howl over the shipment of corn from Indonesia that even reached as low as P3.50 a kilo then.
Leyretana said the SMC had agreed to produce cheaper feeds for the halal poultry industry to help the government's ongoing efforts to expand the market of local halal food products in the Middle East and Muslim-dominated countries in Southeast Asia.
He said the market for halal poultry products in the Middle East is currently pegged at 15,400 metric tons (MT) annually or 1,284 MT a month.
Mindanao's annual chicken production averages at 212,456 MT but the bulk of the produce mainly goes to the domestic markets.
"If we can only get at least two percent of the Middle East market, it would bring tremendous opportunities down the line especially in terms of jobs and the development of various related industries," Leyretana said.
Halal refers to food that underwent processes required in Islamic laws and teachings free from filth and contamination and not derived from Haram (prohibited sources). In cases of meat, animals must be slaughtered in accordance with certain Islamic teachings.
By food safety standards, halal is considered a quality control system by itself that puts emphasis on critical control points involving hygienic and disease-free preparation of foods from farm to plate. Halal seal marked on labels of food and non-food products will inform Muslim consumers that the product is free from any Haram or pork, lard from swine and alcohol.
The Muslim Business Forum based in this city earlier said the global Halal market now serves over 1.48 billion Muslims.
The Center for American Muslim Research and Information estimates the international halal food trade is worth $150 billion a year, with the buying power of Muslims in the United States alone pegged at $12 billion.Other markets with high purchasing power for halal-certified foods include Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.