Unified halal certification system crucial to industrys growth – Warees

SINGAPORE, While the halal food industry is booming, it still faces a key stumbling block, namely the absence of a standardised regulatory framework in halal certification, says Warees Halal Limited.

Warees is a company within the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis) Group.

Without a unified certification system, cross-border halal trade is impacted and hence, the further growth of the halal food industry is hampered, said Warees chief executive officer Dewi Hartaty Suratty in an opinion piece shared with Bernama.

She said what is classified permissible by a certifying body in one country may not necessarily be so in another. And making it more complicated is the different interpretations that many of these certifying bodies have on what constitutes halal, she added.

For instance, Dewi said, while countries such as Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore allow the practice of stunning chicken before halal slaughter, Saudi Arabia does not allow that.

Another observed difference relates to wine vinegar, she said.

Malaysia regards the product as non-halal if it is produced through human intervention. Indonesia, on the other hand, classifies wine vinegar as halal regardless if it is produced naturally or through engineering.

Such differences make the process of agreeing to a global, or even regional, halal certification standard challenging, she said.

As a result, Dewi said, companies operating in the halal food space that are looking to export to different markets face the challenge of higher costs as they may need to maintain multiple production processes or halal certifications in order to comply to standards set in each importing market.

This creates a bottleneck for many of these companies, which then leads to slower halal trade, she said.

Therefore, Dewi stressed that a collaboration and an alignment are much needed.

According to her, the lack of global harmonised certification standards is restricting the industry’s potential and opportunity to develop further, especially at a time when more big food companies and non-Muslim nations are upping their investments and know-how in the halal industry.

At the same time, with countries like Indonesia introducing new regulations and certification frameworks, and new technologies like blockchain increasingly being tried and tested in the halal food supply chain, the need for international alignment cannot be further emphasised, she said.

Nonetheless, Dewi said, the industry is moving in the right direction, with bodies such as the International Halal Authority Board (IHAB) and International Halal Accreditation Forum (IHAF) launched and in operation.

Moving forward, she said these bodies need to work together and agree on basic parameters such as the acceptable limit of ethanol in flavourings, laboratory testing techniques and certification processes in order to reduce barriers to halal trade.

Identifying a ‘leader’ � be it a bloc, nation or certification body � can also be helpful in propelling ongoing discussions on unifying halal certification standards worldwide and in setting an example for the rest of the industry to follow, she said.

Warees will be at FHA-Food & Beverage, Asia’s largest food & drinks trade event that brings together the global food and hospitality community, which is taking place at the Singapore Expo for four days from March 31, 2020.

In Singapore, the rise of the halal food industry is evidenced by the growth of halal certification in the country, Dewi said.

Statistics from Muis show that about 4,500 premises and 55,000 products were certified halal in 2018 � double the volume from a decade ago.

Dewi said many efforts by government agencies, industry bodies and businesses have been put in play to tap on this growth and further develop the halal food industry.

As an example, she said, Singapore is set to have a dedicated halal hub, scheduled to be completed in 2021, that aims to enable more local halal food producers to export to the flourishing international market.

Citing the recent 2019/20 State of the Global Islamic Economy report, Dewi said the spending on halal food and beverages is forecast to reach US$1.9 trillion by 2023.

At the same time, she said, the value of the global halal food market is predicted to grow at a cumulative annual growth rate of more than 11 per cent to reach US$2.6 trillion by 2023.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency