The DTI-EMB organized a seminar, entitled “Sharing of Insights on How to Access the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA] Market for Food, Cosmetics and Pharmaceutical Products,” held on May 25 at the DTI International Building in Makati City. This brought together companies from the KSA and the Philippines to discuss ways to access the Mideast market.
The seminar also included a briefing and overview of the Outbound Business Mission (OBM) in the Middle East in February. The OBM aimed to promote Philippine export products to the Mideast through business matching, market sensing and networking activities.
Other concerns local exporters face in tapping the market include difficulty in translating labels from English to Arabic, strong presence of fake products in the market and strict regulation by the government. These were also discussed during the event.
Given these identified challenges, EMB intends to build and maintain a database on market requirements and regulations, and build a government-to-government trusting relationship. EMB also encourages participation from the private sector to intensify these initiatives.
Presenters included Rorie Castillo, EMB-Food and Agri-Marine Division chief; Anwar Rahil Al-Taleb, CEO of Good Livelihood Esta. Trading; and Hassan A. Al Zahrani, executive manager of Famous Food Products (KSA).
During the seminar, Anwar and Hassan emphasized the importance of knowing the market first and establishing good relationship with distributors to maximize opportunities offered by the Middle East market.
“The main task is how to introduce the products to the mainstream; that is the real job,” Hassan said. DTI-EMB Assistant Director Anthony B. Rivera further encouraged the participants to take advantage of the presence of KSA companies and government initiatives to further their exports Mideast. “There is a growing Filipino population in the region. Therefore, local exporters must take all the advantage available to penetrate the mainstream market there.”
In 2015 the Philippines exported $553 million worth of goods to the Middle East and imported a total of $3.5 billion, composed mainly of oil. At present, there are about 2.2 million Filipino workers in the region, where 800,000 are based in Saudi Arabia. EMB takes it as a good sign for Philippine products and sees more opportunities to go mainstream in the ME market.
At present, many Gulf Cooperation companies have expressed their intention and commitment to work with Philippine manufacturers. The DTI has also been conducting a series of discussions on new regulations by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology to determine strategic action plans and recommendations for increasing Philippine exports ozn products and services to mainstream markets in the region.
The next OBM to the Mideast will be held this November. □
Albin M. Ganchero is the Assistant Chief of Food and Agri-Marine Division, Export Marketing Bureau, Department of Trade and Industry.