Pak­istan aim­ing to boost ha­lal ex­port busi­ness

The China Post - - BUSINESS - BY GUIL­LAUME LAVALLIE

Fruity sweets and packets of chicken soup that fall foul of ha­lal laws are dis­ap­pear­ing from Pak­istan’s shop coun­ters as the coun­try looks to clean up its Is­lamic food cre­den­tials to boost ex­ports to rich Gulf states.

At the start of the year the gov­ern­ment pub­lished a list of around 20 im­ported food prod­ucts it said were not ha­lal, or per­mit­ted un­der Is­lamic law.

Shops in Pak­istan, an Is­lamic repub­lic where 97 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion are Mus­lims, al­ready do not stock pork or al­co­hol — with a few ex­tremely rare ex­cep­tions for for­eign­ers and the small Chris­tian mi­nor­ity.

Now the gov­ern­ment wants to crack down fur­ther on prod­ucts us­ing al­co­hol and pork de­riv­a­tives as in­gre­di­ents.

So amongst other things, Pop­Tarts are off the shelves in many stores, along with im­ported jelly, sweets and sev­eral Euro­pean brands of chicken soup.

They have been found to con­tain in­gre­di­ents banned in Is­lam such as wine or gela­tine de­rived from pork, or ex­tracts from chick­ens not killed in ac­cor­dance with Qu­ranic doc­trine.

There is so far no ex­tra obli­ga­tion on shop­keep­ers to pull prod­ucts from the shelves, but some have de­cided to act.

“We heard about the new rules and de­cided not to take any chances,” one Islamabad shop­keeper told AFP.

Other shop­keep­ers are putting up signs warn­ing cus­tomers to check the in­gre­di­ents of im­ported prod­ucts care­fully be­fore buy­ing.

Some are even qui­etly telling cus­tomers not to buy cer­tain prod­ucts over fears, some­times mis­placed, that they con­tain banned sub­stances.

Ha­lal Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion

A draft law seen by AFP and due to be scru­ti­nized by law­mak­ers in the com­ing months plans to sort out which prod­ucts are ha­lal and which are not, and set up an in­spec­tion ser­vice.

The aim is to cre­ate a Pak­istani Ha­lal Author­ity with the goal of boost­ing food and agri­cul­tural ex­ports to wealthy Gulf states.

Pak­istan has been un­der­go­ing a process of Is­lamiza­tion since the late 70s, but it is a late ar­rival to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket for ha­lal prod­ucts that has been grow­ing in re­cent years and is es­ti­mated to be worth up to US$700 bil­lion (NT$21.5 tril­lion) world­wide.

“Now there i s aware­ness about ( ha­lal), peo­ple go through the com­po­si­tion, the con­tents. Ear­lier, the aware­ness was not there, no­body was aware of this non-ha­lal con­tents,” Mian Ijaz, a se­nior of­fi­cial at the Min­istry of Science and Tech­nol­ogy, told AFP.

The science min­istry is tak­ing the lead on the bill as it has lab­o­ra­to­ries for testing prod­ucts.

One of the ar­chi­tects of the pro­posed fed­eral ha­lal author­ity, re­tired judge Khalil- ur- Rehman Khan, said the plan would mean prod­ucts were clearly la­beled and should give Pak­istani shop­pers peace of mind.

“Any­one im­port­ing for in­stance chicken from sources that are du­bi­ous or which peo­ple have doubt, like from (main­land) China ... will have to have ac­cred­i­ta­tion from the author­ity work­ing un­der the Pak­istan Ha­lal author­ity,” he told AFP.

How­ever the main aim of the project is not to re­strict im­ports, but to boost ex­ports.

Ly­ing at the cross­roads of the in­creas­ingly wealthy Mus­lim coun­tries in Cen­tral Asia and the rich Gulf states, where de­mand for ha­lal im­ports has boomed in the last decade, Pak­istan is well-placed ge­o­graph­i­cally to in­crease its ex­port in, for ex­am­ple, meat.

“Pak­istan has all th­ese mar­kets avail­able ... as far as shariah com­pli­ance is con­cerned cred­i­bil­ity of Pak­istan is al­ready there — what we have to en­sure is only the qual­ity,” Khan said, call­ing for the cre­ation of a rec­og­niz­able Pak­istani ha­lal-cer­ti­fied logo.

Zubair Mughal of Pak­istan’s Ha­lal Re­search Coun­cil agreed, say­ing the coun­try has the prod­ucts and a strong Is­lamic rep­u­ta­tion but needs bet­ter “ha­lal brand­ing.”

“The top 10 ex­porters to the Mid­dle Eastern mar­ket, the main ha­lal mar­ket, they are not from Mus­lim coun­tries,” he said.

“Among the top 10 there is no Mus­lim coun­try,” he added, not­ing that Australia, New Zealand, Ar­gentina, Brazil, Rus­sia, France, In­dia and Thai­land are all among the top ex­porters.

Un­der the pro­posed law, all food ex­ports will be tested by cer­ti­fi­ca­tion agen­cies un­der a na­tional ha­lal author­ity — partly a way of un­der­cut­ting cler­ics who have set them­selves up as lu­cra­tive ha­lal- check­ers.

In­spec­tors will be set up to make sure no-one pro­duces fake ha­lal lo­gos or sells prod­ucts that do not con­form to the new leg­is­la­tion, with wrong­do­ers fac­ing six months in jail or fines of up to US$6,000.

AFP

This pho­to­graph taken on April 10 shows a Pak­istani butcher cut­ting meat at a shop in La­hore.

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