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Missing the boat, Part I

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

A case in point: Malaysia’s Mihas, the halal showcase, recently held its sixth expo; Abu Dhabi’s Halal World Expo was cancelled after a brief two-year run.

“The exhibition didn’t get enough buyers last year, and when that happens, exhibitors don’t come back the following year,” says Evans. “Besides, it was competing with Gulfood [the food and drink expo held in Dubai in February], whereas halal doesn’t get identified as a separate concept in the UAE. They [the UAE government] need to rethink it.”

Indeed, Arab authorities must shoulder part of the blame. Even in Muslim emerging countries, governments strongly support halal commercial development – for example, the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation is in charge of promoting Malaysian halal exports overseas, with the enticing prospect of having the industry add 5.8 percent of GDP to the country’s coffers by 2020 – yet Arab countries draw a blank.

“Governments in Southeast Asia, primarily, really saw halal as a way to boost their exports,” says Evans. “Similarly, in Canada, the government is looking at halal as a way to get back into exports after the mad cow [disease] outbreak. In Arab Muslim countries, nobody saw what the fuss was about. By and large, Arab governments were concerned about building the tallest building and becoming a tourist destination. Not much has been done to develop their own food industry. As the recent downturn has shown, you don’t want to be depending on the rest of the world to get your food.”

There is a curious paradox at the heart of this, because any product coming from the Muslim heartland should have a marketable cachet.

First seen in Gulf Marketing Review magazine.

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1 Comment

  1. Omar Abedin on June 14, 2009 10:05 am

    It is important to make a distinction between “Halal” and “Zabiha” when it comes to food products.
    “Halal” connotes certain foods that have been decreed as OK for Muslims to consume, through the writ of the Quran. (This is as opposed to “haraam”, which term is used to describe foods that are absolutely NOT permitted for Muslims – e.g. pork, alcohol, etc.).
    “Zabiha” on the other hand is the prescribed method of preparing meats that may otherwise be halal e.g. mutton, beef etc. The techniques of “Zabiha” are described in the Hadith, the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The problem arises when many in the Middle East region (who subscribe only to the Quran, and not the Hadith) see no difference between the two. Technically, a beef burger sold by a chain in NY is “Halal” (provided it has no pork etc.) because it is made with beef which has been declared “halal” in the Quran. However, it is definitely not “Zabiha”, because the animal was not slaughtered in the prescribed manner i.e. slaughtered in the name of God, allowed to bleed out, etc. This is an important distinction – for details on what constitutes “Zabiha”, please contact a qualified practitioner in your area.


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