Sunday, 07 November 2010 17:18
More Mindanao food firms, including fruit and seafood processors, are working to qualify for HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certification, knowing that this will open doors for them in the international food trade.
“The global market is demanding in terms of food safety,” said Jonathan Godoy, vice president of BG Fruits and Nuts Manufacturing Corp, which exports banana chips. “HACCP is a basic requirement for entering the U.S. and European food markets, for example.”
BG Fruits and Nuts, Snapsnax Food Ventures, Four Seasons Fruit Corp., Soyuz Foods International Corp., Motherland Food Products, and Prime Xynergies Foods, are among the Mindanao companies seeking to comply with HACCP’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
The six companies, all small-to-medium enterprises, are now receiving assistance from USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program in developing the systems and procedures needed for HACCP compliance, and in arranging for an audit by an internationally-recognized third-party certifying agency.
“If you aren’t HACCP-certified, foreign buyers won’t even consider your letter of introduction and offer unless they are in great need of your product,” said Marilou Fernandez, sales and marketing director of KF Nutri Foods International Inc. “And even then, you would have to set your selling price well below that of their existing suppliers.”
KF Nutri Foods was in the first group of Mindanao firms assisted by GEM in acquiring HACCP certification.
“Now, when I introduce our company and say that we are certified, buyers immediately ask for a quotation,” said Fernandez. “With HACCP you feel right away that they have confidence in your company.”
The cost of acquiring certification can be substantial, depending on the changes each company has to make. These may include renovating or adding buildings, reconfiguring assembly lines, buying equipment, training workers and introducing documentation and monitoring systems.
“We had to renovate the factory and provide staff training. During the first week, staff had a hard time with the manuals,” Godoy said. “But the result was that each worker’s role is defined much more clearly, making production more systematic and efficient.”
“For HACCP, workers have to learn discipline with regard to the simplest matters, such as wearing hairnets and washing hands properly,” said Fernandez.
Despite the relatively large costs involved, however, the companies interviewed for this article believe that the investment in HACCP is worth pursuing.
Such was the case of KF Nutri Foods. Fernandez said that her company’s HACCP certification helped increase sales of banana chips by 20 percent.
“It gave us a competitive edge, globally,” she said.
Helen del Rosario, general manager of Soyuz Foods, which exports processed calamansi, advises food companies to start developing a HACCP-oriented mindset, even before beginning the formal process of accreditation.
“So that when you take the step of acquiring certification, it will be easy to adjust to HACCP,” she said.
As Mindanao food processors and exporters acquire new customers because of HACCP, growers will increase production to keep up with the demand for more raw materials.
This in turn is expected to create livelihood opportunities in Mindanao’s rural areas.
“We plan to establish longer-term contracts, with more farms and cooperatives for our supply of bananas,” said Godoy, who projects a substantial increase in BG Fruits and Nuts sales once the company is HACCP-certified.
He added: “This would have an impact [on local growers], because institutions that provide financing require contracts of this kind. Otherwise, small farmers who have no collateral would have a hard time getting financing support.”
GEM works with business support organizations, industry federations and growers associations to increase domestic out-shipments and exports of selected high-value Mindanao agricultural commodities.
GEM is being implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Development Authority. GEM
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