With Muslim countries fast waking up to the potential halal exports hold, and nations scrambling to become hubs for the distribution of Islamically acceptable meat, Pakistan is lagging behind the pack but still has the potential to improve its standing.
The country has yet to implement its own halal standards and it still has no official certification body. However, Pakistan is naturally placed to control halal exports for South Asia just as long as the government gives better exposure to exports by fulfilling the requirements of consumers—notably by focusing on certification.
“Pakistan has the potential to assume a leadership role in the global halal food market by following proper strategies, policies and practices,” said Nasib Ahmad Saifi, an influential industry proponent and a major exporter of halal food lines.
“Halal products are now seen as a potential engine of economic growth with an annual turnover of hundreds of billions of dollars globally.”
In Europe, the market for halal foods has been estimated at $66 billion, with France having the largest share, with approximately US$17 billion. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, with industry experts estimating the size of the total global halal market, which includes all halal food, non-food products and services, as ranging from between US$1.2tn and US$2tn per year.
More than 80 per cent of the world halal trade is done by non-Muslim countries, both in the West and East, which, by using the halal name to their economic benefit, have become the biggest exporters of halal products in the world.
In the West, the United States, Brazil, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and France are the biggest halal suppliers. In the East, Thailand is the biggest exporter of halal-certified products, after which the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and India are the leading halal products suppliers.
However, in spite of its lack of a formal certification, labelling and packaging policy, Pakistan is determined to cement a place at the centre of the regional trade, with a view to expanding its commercial reach.
Speaking at the recent Global Halal Congress in Sharjah, UAE, Amin Fahim, Pakistan’s federal minister for commerce, said that his country’s strength comes from being a wholly Muslim nation with a fully halal production base. Its home market consists of over 180m consumers, while it also has direct access to 470m more in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East.
While Pakistan is still weighing up its own classification system, an international code of practice, however, would bring greater confidence to consumers further afield, and to this end industry leaders and Islamic scholars have recently agreed to develop a global halal standard.
This is important because, according to Hani Mansour Al Mazeedi of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific research, “most” halal certification bodies do not have scientific and Sharia committees.
Speaking to The National in Abu Dhabi, Al Mazeedi said: “The two committees are needed to work hand in hand to understand new technologies, to understand the chemical nature of raw materials and to provide procedures to switch haram production lines to halal ones.”
He accused Western halal meat certifying bodies as being “ignorant” about halal processed food requirements. “They are not sincere in selecting their halal slaughter operator,” he said. “I have personally witnessed a halal slaughterman in France who does not utter the Tasmiyah”, a prayer required when slaughtering an animal.
Pakistan has already started to ramp up its exports, which have increased to more than US1bn in the GCC region, with the UAE alone receiving over half of this amount. But there is no arguing that certification—either domestic or a unified standard—would have a significant impact on continued growth.
“Pakistan products are in a position to claim a huge chunk of the global halal market with some effort towards halal certification and subsequent labelling an packaging,” said Fahim, Pakistan’s commerce minister.
“And there is a dire need for value addition that can only be achieved by establishing brands in the region and spending on marketing efforts.”