Pakistan meat sector hopes new government budget will boost halal exports

By Afshan Subohi, in Karachi

- Last updated on GMT

The Pakistan government’s budget for 2015-16 will be presented in the first week of June
The Pakistan government’s budget for 2015-16 will be presented in the first week of June

Related tags Livestock

The meat industry in Pakistan is hoping an upcoming government budget will promote investment enabling the sector to hit a government target of doubling the country’s export earnings from the global halal food market by 2018.

This would net Pakistan meat exporters US$600 million in annual export proceeds, compared to US$300m now, according to Pakistan ministry of national food security and research figures.

The Pakistan government’s budget for 2015-16 will be presented in the first week of June, and followed by provincial budgets. Meat associations, including the All Pakistan Meat Producers and Exporters Association and the Pakistan Poultry Association, have submitted their budget proposals, which include calls for tax incentives for the sector and greater protection against meat and meat-based product imports, giving the sector more spare cash to invest in halal production and marketing.

"Yes Pakistan can increase its share [projected to be less than 2% currently] in the halal market by 100% very quickly if relevant stakeholders get serious,"​ said Seerat Asghar, the federal secretary (top official) at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR).

"The private sector needs to initiate investment to upgrade and expand their establishments, pool resources to support the government in developing required labs and certifying institutions to realise the production and export potential. In a cash-strapped economy, it is unrealistic to expect too much from the government,"​ he explained.

But private sector players blame a poor policy framework for the slow progress on halal. "The economic diplomacy is flawed. Concessions are granted to competitors without ensuring reciprocal response. Imports of poultry from Malaysia are zero-rated; for China, duties have been slashed to 10%. We have to pay 15-30% import duty on inputs and 17% sales tax on products. It is difficult to compete even in the local market. If the government wishes to increase exports and arrive in the halal food market with a bang, it needs to make the business environment friendly,"​ Khalil Sattar, chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) told GlobalMeatNews​.

"Add this to the high cost of credit, bureaucratic hurdles, gas and electricity shutdowns and the cost of private security to plant and operators, and compare it to our competitors in the region. We are all for expansion if the government fix their part of the problem,"​ he argued.

Tariq Butt, chairman of the All Pakistan Meat Exporters and Processors Association (APMEPA) criticised the establishment of a new public certification agency, the Punjab Halal Development Agency (PHDA), which operates under the Punjab provincial government.

He said this would introduce additional and burdensome controls, explaining: "All meat produced is halal in Pakistan and the health certificate of the Quarantine Department Pakistan [of the food safety and research ministry] already certifies it. We suspect that the government wants to add another charge on an already burdened sector,"​ he said.

The new agency is supposed to formalise the Punjab halal sector, certifying producers for compliance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.

Dr Qurban Ali, animal husbandry commissioner at the MNFSR, has produced a briefing note that there are currently 29 certified slaughterhouses in the private sector across Pakistan, and processing units for non-conventional items, such as gelatin, bone and related products, animal waste, leather, wool, hair and animal feed.

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