Missing the boat, Part I
Countries around the world are scrambling to jump on board the hugely lucrative halal sector, except, that is, Arab countries, Part I.
June 11, 2009 8:07 by Nathalie Bontems
“With halal, we can target Muslims and non-Muslim countries, our marketing is focused on organic, vegetarian and cruelty free,” says Hussain-Gambles, who adds: “The majority of our clients are non-Muslims and from Europe, and they are quite keen to find out more about halal and intrigued, as halal is synonymous with animal killing, but our products are certified vegetarian or vegan. It’s important to promote halal as a symbol of purity and integrity in non-Muslim countries, rather than as a religious brand. This will dispel any stereotypes associated with halal and Muslims.
“My focus is to promote halal as the new eco-ethical certification, which takes into consideration the highest standards of purity and integrity. Let’s face it: halal principles are no different from Western principles of eco-ethical. In halal, perhaps we can find global integration irrespective of creed or religion.”
Arab apathy? What is not in dispute, however, is that halal is a growing market and Arab companies seem to have missed the boat.
The Arab world is a premier market for halal products due to its dense concentration of Muslim consumers, but it is not where most halal products are made. On the contrary, Arab countries rely overwhelmingly on imports. According to Brunei’s Department of Development Studies, 50 out of 57 member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are dependent on imported halal meat products. The UAE’s halal industry may export $30 million-$50 million worth of merchandise every year, according to the International Halal Integrity Alliance (IHI Alliance), but Imarat Consultants (a consulting firm specialising in halal) notes that the Emirates also imports about $150 million of similar goods each year, 80 percent of which is imported from such non-Islamic countries as Brazil and Australia. “350,000 tons of chicken [were] imported from Brazil to Saudi Arabia in 2006,” says Abdalhamid Evans, senior consultant at Imarat. “That’s huge. And it shows positions have been taken. Arab producers are now playing catch-up and are facing challenges even to fill the slot in their own markets.”