Doha-based Filipino officials, entrepreneurs, and business stakeholders have welcomed the arrival of a food processing company from the Philippines, which is now producing halal meat products in Qatar.
Rather than exporting to Doha, Mekeni Food Corporation, through its partner in Qatar, is now processing, distributing, and marketing its hotdog, tocino, and longanisa products in the Qatari market, which is home to more than 250,000 Filipinos and a diverse population of expatriates from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the US, among others.
Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of a commercial agreement signing ceremony held recently in Doha, Mekeni Food Corporation president Prudencio “Pruds” Garcia said the company intends to make Qatar its export hub to neighbouring GCC countries “and beyond.”
“We soft-launched our export business as early as 2011 when Mekeni first shipped products to Dubai. Today, our halal ‘Picnic Hotdog’, ‘Chicken Tocino’, and ‘Chicken Longanisa’ brands are also available in the US, the UAE, Canada, Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, The Netherlands, and New Zealand.
“With Doha as our hub in the Gulf, plans are in the pipeline to expand our export target to more GCC countries, as well as those in Europe and other mainstream markets to give OFWs and Filipinos living permanently abroad a taste of world-class Filipino food products in the hope that we can somehow fill the void of missing home,” Garcia said.
Marilou Olalia-Uy, assistant vice-president for HR and Exports at Mekeni, said: “To offer halal products in Qatar has been on our export plan for quite a while now and we are fortunate to fulfil it this year through partnerships with local manufacturers.”
In a letter to Garcia dated June 18, 2023, Philippine ambassador Lillibeth V Pono said: “On behalf of the embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Doha, I wish to extend my warmest congratulations on the scheduled signing of the commercial agreement between your company, Mekeni Food Corporation, and Doha National Food Industries on the sidelines of the community-led celebration of the 125th Philippine Independence Day on 23 June 2023.”
The ambassador added: “The embassy underscores its commitment to provide appropriate assistance to homegrown Philippine enterprises that wish to serve the dynamic Qatari market and expand their operations in the Middle East.”
Filipino entrepreneur Michael Javier, CEO and founder of Doha-based CWallet, lauded Mekeni’s move to saturate the local market with Filipino products that are being made in Qatar, saying this could encourage other major Filipino-owned companies to follow suit.
According to Javier, Philippine companies specialising in the e-commerce and tech industries, manufacturing and packaging, industrial supply, sustainable and recyclable materials, agri-products, processed foods, hospitality, insurance, and well-being sectors would add value not only to their respective brands but to Qatar’s economy, as well, by expanding their operations here.
“This would be a good use case in terms of a logistics and supply chain study. Knowing that Saudi Arabia is connected to Qatar by land, distribution channels to bigger markets like the kingdom, as well as the UAE, would bring business sense. Moreover, within 12 hours by land, transport vehicles can reach Oman, the UAE, and Bahrain, which is less than an hour by plane, including Kuwait,” Javier explained.
Another Filipino entrepreneur, Jeniffer Marie Tungol, general partner and CEO of the Doha-based Superfuture Ventures Limited UK-$1B Climate Impact Fund, emphasised that companies like Mekeni bring added value to Qatar’s economy through job creation, economic diversification, technology transfer, increased FDI, and supply chain development.
“Apart from the obvious economic value, the presence of a heritage brand like Mekeni is a strong indicator of Qatar’s openness and willingness to build a more inclusive business and social environment.
“Demonstrating success, sharing market insights, fostering a collaborative ecosystem, gaining government support, and enhancing the reputation of Filipino products all contribute to inspiring and motivating other companies to explore international expansion opportunities in Qatar and beyond,” she said.
Business Partners Consulting CEO Jyerex Go Abrasado, who is chairman of the organising committee for the recently-concluded 125th Philippine Independence Day celebrations here, said Qatar has implemented various legal and economic reforms and established world-class free zones and other facilities to boost foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow and attract a wide range of industries into the country.
He encouraged Filipino businesses and companies to capitalise on the opportunities being offered by the Philippine government through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), such as the DTI’s ‘Outbound Business Matching Mission (OBMM) to GCC Countries’, which was held here in February 2023.
“Similarly, Qatar has been organising events with the participation of international companies, such as the recently-held Project Qatar and the upcoming horticultural event ‘Expo Doha 2023’. Events such as these are ideal platforms to promote the products and services of companies from the Philippines.
“These companies could also benefit from incentives provided by Qatar’s 100% foreign ownership law and the public-private partnership law, which aim to stimulate the Qatari economy by attracting FDI,” Abrasado stressed.
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