By Ali Fatharally, FT
Sri Lanka needs to open up to the global Halal market and our initial focus should be in South East Asia as this region is currently growing exponentially. Some of the key countries for us to focus on are Maldives, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines, India, Indonesia and China.
Today, South Eastern countries like Malaysia are driving Halal standards and have become the centre to understanding this ‘Halal’ economy. For the last five years, Malaysia has held the ‘World Halal Week’ conference and this has contributed towards enhancing Halal awareness internationally.
The World Halal Week Conference held in April last year, aimed to create emerging technologies and frontiers of business opportunities within Halal. This was in line with the Malaysian Government’s efforts to continuously inspire innovation in the Halal industry, as innovation and research within the entire Halal value chain is critical in creating a sustainable Halal industry.
Participants at this conference interacted and discussed with both Malaysian and International scientists, researchers, academics and business leaders, exchanging ideas on new research findings, emerging technologies, trends, issues and challenges faced by the global Halal industry.
The news of Sri Lanka’s Halal Accreditation Council taking over the Halal Compliance Certification has now made good news among the concerned agencies in South East Asia.
With us gaining accreditation and recognition, newer opportunities will present themselves in the meat and poultry industries, food manufacturing and retailing, restaurant chains, food service industry, logistics and shipping and personal care products.
There are close on two billion customers in the world that we can reach out to. In South East Asia itself there are over 266 million Muslims who are potential customers and another 39 million in China alone.
In Sri Lanka Halal Compliance Certification is at its infancy when compared to the global market. That is because the market potential is still very limited. Sri Lankan companies looking at the Halal market are limited to mainly tea, confectionaries, spices and Ayurvedic products.
Surprisingly, poultry, processed food and dairy have not taken off the ground even though Sri Lanka has high potential to export these products to ready markets in countries like Dubai, India and the Maldives. This is potential that HAC sees for the immediate future i.e. 2014.
However, there has been a lot of stereotyping of the food consumed by Muslims. Today, in the international market this community is being exposed to a wider choice subject to just one condition – that the food falls under Halal compliance; but beyond that the opportunities are endless. It is for us Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to find opportunity by introducing our flavours into these multicultural markets.
Contrary to what some say, Halal, rather than stifling, presents real opportunity and HAC is the gateway to this new world. We are not merely an office that issues certificates; we are in discussion with various chambers and international businesses to open Sri Lanka up for greater prospects. The dark years of war are now at an end and Sri Lanka is on the threshold of stepping into a new economic boom and every avenue has to be explored to place our country on the map.
Even locally we are in discussion with the various Chambers of Commerce to address the needs of their members to enter these international markets. On the same note we are also facilitating business establishments to meet the requirements of the local market.
Important role for HAC
We certainly see an important role for HAC in developing this ‘Halal economy’ and it in no way contradicts the local norms and values. In fact it can only enrich the current standards of health and safety in our country.
The Halal Accreditation Council is a company incorporated under the Companies Act of Sri Lanka and has to follow all the laws pertaining to this act. We will ensure transparency and good governance and act in the best interests of the country.
It is our mission that Sri Lankan business will see new opportunities through this mechanism and we boldly take this step in guiding local commerce into a new paradigm.
[The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of HAC, Halal Accreditation Council (Guarantee) Limited. He is also a Director at Global Commodity Solutions (Pvt) Ltd. In the past, he has worked as a Business Analyst for a Sri Lankan conglomerate which is also a listed company and as an Investment Advisor for a Financial Services organisation. A past pupil of Royal College Colombo 07, Mr Ali Fatharally has been an oarsman and has professional qualifications from the Charted Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the Charted Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI). He can be reached on email@example.com.]