ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Sept) The Depatment of Trade and Industry in Western Mindanao has urged retail establishments in Zamboanga City to set up a Halal section in their stores, saying that if it proved successful, the measure could be implemented nationwide.
By setting up a Halal section, the stores will also give retailers an idea on how to upgrade their marketing practices not only to stay afloat, but also to be sensitive to their consumers’ needs, particularly the growing number of Muslim buyers, said Sitti Amina Jain, assistant regional director of the Trade and Industry department.
"What we advocate is that retailers should be sensitive to the needs of the Muslim shoppers," she said.
Halal is an Arabic term, which means lawful or permissible. "It compasses everything from money to marriage. It fundamentally defines the Muslim way of life," she said.
"Muslims only patronize products and services that are permitted in Islam and this offers a huge opportunity not only for manufacturers, but also to the retailers who are at the end point where the consumer and the sellers meet," she added.
Ms. Jain said her office had introduced the proposal to retailers in the city, consisting of supermarkets, malls, and department stores. "We are targeting an initial of at least 10 major retail stores in the city. We hope that these establishments can finish setting up the Halal sections before the Consumer Month in October, with the main theme as Halal," she said.
"Since the city lies at the center of Muslim-dominated islands and provinces, setting up a Halal section in retail stores is a market strategy to capture not only Muslim customers but also to keep up with the demands of other customers," she said.
"At least 29% of the 700,000 population of Zamboanga City alone are Muslim, and it is still growing with a projection of roughly 3% increase per year. Aside from that, retailers have to consider that Zamboanga City is the trading, commercial, and shopping center for Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which are dominated by Muslim residents," she said.
The trade of Halal foods is lucrative since Halal products are fit for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, particularly health-conscious consumers. In setting up a Halal section, retailers should also follow certain rules.
"For Halal meats, there should be separate facilities to cut the meat, such as the knives, chopping board, weighing scale and freezer, and this will be manned by Muslim salespersons. On the other hand, for processed foods, cosmetics and others, retailers will have to construct a cabinet that will separate non-Halal from Halal goods," she said.
Ms. Jain said the setting up of a Halal section in groceries will help the government protect the interest and promote the welfare of Muslim consumers. "This will help the consumer locate where the non-Halal and Halal goods are. Aside from that, the stores will also earn the recognition and gratitude of the Muslim community," she said.
To help retailers stock up Halal goods in their stores, the Islamic Dawa Council of the Philippines has already listed the names and directory of the more than 50 manufactures with Halal certification which produce an average of 400 Halal products.
"This will also help the local retailers spread their business through networking," she said, adding Trade has already sent a proposal to the national government to implement the program not only in Zamboanga City but also nationwide, particularly in Mindanao.