By ASHFAK BOKHARI, DAWN
A team of officials from Malaysian department of Islamic development visited several abattoirs in Lahore in the first week of this month to inspect and ensure that the meat being exported to their country was halal and safe for consumption.
Exports of meat from Punjab to Malaysia have picked up recently.
Two months ago, Malaysia’s state minister for religious affairs and domestic trade Haji Abdul Malik Kassim, while on a visit, had stated that Pakistan can play a major role in the global halal meat industry. Halal meat contributes about 16 per cent of total world trade of the commodity.
It is only in recent years that Pakistan has begun to realise the importance and export potential of halal food. In fact no Muslim country features among top 10 halal meat exporters. The market is dominated by multinationals of the western countries. According to a survey, the global Muslim population is around 1.86 billion, which constitutes 30 per cent of the total world population. The volume of overall halal products, which was $635 billion dollars in the year 2010, is estimated to have reached $2 trillion.
Pakistan ranks 18th in the production index of halal meat market and its share is only 2.9 per cent of the global output. That Pakistan can do more is evident from the fact that it has 71 million cattle heads and buffaloes and 89 million goats and sheep.
The government could help raise halal food exports by formulating sound policies in collaboration with the private sector. The existing exports are no match to the country’s annual output of halal meat or its export potential. Local businessmen estimate potential of halal products at $5 to $6 billion, if incentives are provided by the government to encourage export of good quality food products. One may note that India, not a majority Muslim country, is also an active player in the halal food market and its exports have reached $23 billion per annum.
Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry claims that halal meat exports from Punjab have made remarkable progress over the last few years owing to positive steps taken by the provincial government.
The Punjab government has also started work on halal certification which can go a long way in further facilitating exporters of halal products. It is claimed that about 50 halal certified companies have emerged in recent past and are now engaged in export business and that there are also state-of-art halal slaughter houses in the province complying with international best practices.
Some companies are using Australian technology and their beef and mutton plants are equipped with the most updated systems available. Their main customers are from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran.
However, exporters of halal food products complain of a few hardships. They demand they should not be subjected to unjustified taxes and prolonged gas and power loadshedding and be freed from bureaucratic hassles.
Pakistani exporters should also ensure that their products fully comply with the strict safety codes of meat importing countries. Many companies suffer from lack of technical know-how in processing, storing, transporting and marketing of meat and its products. It is for this reason that Halal Research Council (HRC) was recently established and empowered to issue halal certification and assurance programme.
HRC is a Pakistan-based organisation working for the development of halal industry through research, market intelligence and capacity building. It is working globally with the help of 28 partners based in several countries.
A local certification programme pursued by another such body, namely, Halal Industry Research Centre (Shariah Board) is adopting a professional approach to follow Islamic laws. The Centre employs the services of some scholars from Binoria Town, Karachi to determine correct interpretations. If the scholars see no harm in a particular business process, it means the company has complied with all the standards under Pakistan Halal Standards and is issued a certificate.
Pakistan has, meanwhile, approached food importing countries, including the European Union and Gulf countries, to seek recognition as a halal meat exporting country with specific reference to value-added chicken products.
A research report released this month says that global halal food market is set to grow at 4.44 per cent during 2012-2016. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the increase in the Muslim population. The market has also been witnessing increasing R&D in halal product innovations.
However, the decrease in the integrity of halal foods could pose a challenge to the growth of this market. The research report by ResearchMoz is based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts from different countries.