Lack of credentials holding back industry
Lack of halal certification in the country is hurting exporters’ ability to take advantage of the country’s established food quality, says an analyst.
“Thailand exports only 100 billion baht in halal-certified food annually out of a total of 8 trillion baht globally,” said Roongroj Benjamasutin, project director at the Asean Business and Economic project of University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC).
The halal-food industry has grown at up to 9% annually, he said.
Despite the widely accepted quality of Thai-produced food, the country’s exports represent only 1% of the value of halal food globally, with the biggest exporters Australia and Brazil.
Thai food exporters are interested in shipping goods to Islamic countries, but have not paid enough attention to attaining halal certification. Moreover, Thai halal certification is not accepted by several Islamic countries, including Indonesia.
“As we are not a Muslim-majority country, not many producers adhere to halal standards,” said Mr Roongroj.
The National Food Institute (NFI) wants a Thai Halal Kitchen programme in parallel to the Thai Kitchen to the World, said Orawan Kaewprakaisangkul, NFI executive vice-president.
The Central Islamic Committee of Thailand (CICOT) database reports only 69 out of 71,000 kitchens nationwide are halal-certified, said Mrs Orawan.
More restaurants in Thailand should become halal-certified in preparation for the Asean Economic Community, she said. NFI hopes to increase the number of certified kitchens by 100 in 2014.
“Many in food services often assume any food other than pork is fine for Muslims to eat, but halal principles are a lot more detailed and stricter than that. The halal process extends to sourcing, storage and preparation of raw materials,” said Jirapong Deeprasert, a PR manager for Nouvo City Hotel. This hotel says it is halal-certified and specialises in servicing Muslim guests.
He added that utensils used in food preparation cannot handle forbidden items such as pork or alcoholic beverages.
The first step is hiring a Muslim head chef with knowledge of the halal process, or hiring a Muslim adviser to advise on halal compliance, said Mr Jirapong.
There are only three halal-certified restaurants in Bangkok, though many more adhere to halal principles but are not fully certified, he said.
Halal certification is issued by CICOT and provincial Islamic authorities, with the NFI providing information about achieving the certification.