By Teddy Searight
The world Halal food market is valued at $700 billion. Pakistan only contributes $28 million, less than 0.5%, to this market despite having the second largest Islamic population in the world.
In Pakistan, although roughly 97% of the population follows Islam, there is not a single Halal certified food chain in the country.
A recent journal article published by CABI scientists, Dr Mazhar and Dr Bajwa, along with Dr Collins from the University of Queensland discusses some remarkable findings on the state of the Halal food chain in Pakistan.
A Halal food chain is one where all the input supplies, materials, production, processing, logistics, handling and trade in a food product, from the point of origin until the food reaches consumers, follow the permissible guidelines of Islamic law.
Only around 20% of food available in Pakistan’s major supermarkets has been Halal certified.
The reasons behind this include; very low consumer awareness of Halal certification, an increasingly complicated global food system and a lack of government legislation.
Studies have found that consumers rarely demand Halal certification for the food they buy. While a few certifying agencies are accredited by the government, most are not, instead following international guidelines which don’t necessarily cater to the local customs of Halal food preparation.
It’s not just the meat industry that needs to comply with Halal standards. Particularly in processed foods involving dairy, confectionery, and bakery products the use of enzymes, gelatine and emulsifiers is common. Suppliers and processors need to ensure that such additives are derived from Halal sources.
Photo credit Lars Curfs
There is good economic reason for Pakistan to improve its certification standards. The wealthy and demanding Halal markets of Middle East and Gulf countries nearby provide a potentially lucrative new export opportunity.
Learning from other countries could help Pakistan capitalise on the regions insatiable demand for Halal.
Malaysia has the most developed Halal food industry in the Islamic world. Any food product eaten by consumers can only be certified Halal if all the operations in that supply chain follow strict guidelines. Additionally, consumer awareness programs have been launched and actively conducted to increase the demand of Halal certified food products.
The authors suggest that such changes for Pakistan are difficult or impossible to accomplish without external assistance. Typically businesses and governments rely on specialist providers in this arena. One example currently operating in Pakistan is The Food Safety Network; an online sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) distance learning course of which CABI is an implementing partner. Aspects of the course focusing on plant pest surveillance, plant pest identification systems, and plant pest inspections help bolster agricultural exports from Pakistan.
Other interventions could include shopper awareness programs, as in Malaysia, to increase understanding of Halal certified food products as well as the standardisation of slaughtering methods to meet international Halal specifications.
There is a clear need and opportunity for Pakistan to develop its domestic Halal food chains. By doing so, it may satisfy its own consumer demands and explore markets in the region to capture a greater share of the world market for Halal food.
Article based on Halal Food Chains – Concepts and Opportunities in Pakistan