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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Halal certification can open new opportunities

Mohd Shukri Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR: Companies can benefit greatly from having halal certification, says Malaysia International Halal Showcase (Mihas) chief executive officer Mohd Shukri Abdullah.

He said with the certification, the halal sector could create a lot of opportunities for them.

“Halal certification is becoming a big deal. One day it will be an important standard in both the local and international food industry,” Shukri told StarBiz.

According to him, many companies without halal certificates were losing out.

“Many hotels and big restaurants these days are very conscious of whether their suppliers are halal and many of these suppliers lose business because they are not,” he said.

“The global demand for halal products is increasing. To meet this demand, products would need to be safe from contamination of non-halal substances and the only way to prove such compliance is with halal certification.”

Shukri estimated that there were currently only about 2,300 companies in Malaysia with halal certification.

“Many companies today do not have halal certification because they do not meet good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards. When the Department of Islamic Development conducts checks on them, they lose out on cleanliness.

“Companies looking for certification are rejected for poor GMP and not on whether products were halal. If a product is unclean, it is not safe for human consumption,” Shukri added.

Many countries, primarily within the Asean region, were going into halal certification and Malaysia was starting to realise its importance, he said, adding that by adopting certification, Malaysia had an opportunity to steal a march on countries from the Middle East, which, ironically, were not so stringent on halal certification.

“Countries from the Middle East are allowing all kinds of foods to enter their countries because the products do not comprise either pork or alcohol.

“Pork can come in different forms such as emulsifiers, conditioners or even colouring,” he added.

Shukri also said suppliers of products to the Middle East might be unwittingly including products tainted with non-halal elements.

“A non-Muslim supplier could decide to use a type of colouring that could be cheaper or of better quality but may not realise that it may be tainted with non-halal elements,” he said.

“All the particular supplier would be taking into account is that he is not supplying pork or alcohol.”

He also said Middle Eastern countries would then look to countries that issued halal certification like Malaysia as an alternative for halal supplies.

On Malaysia’s potential as a global halal hub, he said the country still had a long way to go.

“But it is getting there and events like Mihas would help expedite that process,” he said.

Organised by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade), Mihas is the largest annual gathering of halal industry players and entrepreneurs in the effort to ease the sourcing and selling of global halal products.

Shukri said Mihas would also help boost foreign direct investments.

As an example, Shukri said companies from China often had problems exporting to Muslim countries because of their predominantly non-halal products.

He said Malaysia would not face a similar problem despite the fact that the country’s exporters were predominantly Chinese.

“They are still successful because they are based in Malaysia. With Mihas, we are trying to encourage local Chinese businessmen to work with their foreign counterparts,” he said.

“We want to encourage them to come set up factories here, send their raw materials here, process and pack them here. They can then get local halal authentication and send them to the world.”

This year, Mihas will be held from May 7 to 11 at the Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre. It expects participants from 30 countries to open 610 booths. It also hopes to attract about 40,000 visitors from 70 countries.

The event last year registered over RM600mil in sales.

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

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