Cagayan de Oro—In response to global market demand, even medium-scale processing companies in Mindanao are now setting up internal systems to conform to international food safety standards and thereby attract more buyers.
Amley Food Corp., Sagrex Food Corp., KF Nutri-Foods International, Inc. and Boom Marine Corp. are four Mindanao companies that recently received their HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certification.
“This will open doors for us, since more buyers are requiring processors to have these measures in place,” said Hayley Yu, president of Amley Food, which exports dried fruits such as mango, papaya and pineapple to North America, Japan and other countries, under the Island Tropicks brand.
“Buyers are now inspecting processing plants to check on cleanliness and efficiency,” Yu added. “When you’re HACCP-certified, they know that you’ve already taken steps to prevent problems.”
Previously, only the largest companies and multinationals like Dole sought certification in order to meet the phytosanitary requirements of export markets.
The four firms were assisted by USaid’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) to develop the systems and procedures needed for HACCP compliance, and to arrange for the audit by TUV-SUD, Inc., an internationally-recognized third-party certifying agency.
The cost of acquiring certification can run to millions of pesos, depending on the changes each company has to make. These may include renovating or adding buildings, reconfiguring assembly lines, buying equipment, and establishing the requisite documentation and monitoring systems.
Despite the relatively large costs involved, however, the firms believe the investment is well worth it.
“We’ll not only be able to attract more customers through HACCP, we’ll get better prices as well,” said Contessa Factura, quality assurance officer of Boom Marine Corp., which exports aquacullture products to Japan and South Korea from Misamis Oriental.
Mindanao’s export sector is expected to grow as more of its food producers and processors comply with international phytosanitary standards.
The four firms that have just been HACCP-certified buy their raw materials from associations of growers who have consolidated production to create economies of scale, including farming cooperatives composed of former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front.
As the firms acquire new customers because of HACCP, growers will increase production to keep up with the demand for more raw materials.
This in turn will help create jobs and boost the development of the fruit, vegetable, and high-value aquaculture and mariculture sectors across the region, including conflict-affected areas.
Earlier this year Boom Marine attended the international food show International Food Exporters (Ifex) 2009 with support from GEM, which is implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco).