Thursday, 16 February 2012 10:50

Halal deal opens Muslim markets

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THE BEEF industry is hoping to make new inroads into the tricky but potentially huge halal market this year including regaining some of its former $31 million trade to Malaysia.

Indonesia is also a potential growth market if consumer demand overcomes recent introduction of interventionist policies.

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says in 2005 New Zealand exported 8000 metric tonnes of halal beef worth $31million to the Malaysian market. But after Malaysian inspectors found fault with the New Zealand halal system, our licensed halal meat plants fell from 41 to just two. Last year only 1600 tonnes worth $11.2 million was exported to Malaysia.

But a framework put together by the MAF in conjunction with the Malaysians will not only see at least some of that trade restored, but could encourage more beef exports to other Muslim countries. Already 14 plants are now approved to export to Malaysia including five beef, five sheepmeat and four multi-species.

"This is the first step. We are looking for another audit of more plants this year. It is important we maintain that momentum," says Ritchie.

Meanwhile Ritchie hopes common sense will prevail in Indonesia which has a rising middle class with greater demand for beef. It was our second-biggest market in 2010, but "for political reasons they started talking about self-sufficiency and the need to create greater domestic production".

They introduced a quota system last year which heavily cut our halal exports to them.

"But with rising consumer prices, and domestic consumers unable to access products, we would hope common sense will prevail and they will be more market focused."

Meanwhile a framework for processing and storage of halal products, hammered out by MAF with the Malaysians, could be important in opening up other Muslim markets. The work put into reaching the agreement was recognised last year when MAF won an award for best service provider at the World Halal Forum.

"It sets out what we do in the processing sense and the storage of product a bit like the meat hygiene regulation," Ritchie says.

"It's a framework and a set of rules; this is how NZ will process its halal product and so it's provided something very tangible that can be audited against. " Several certifying authorities ensure processes stick to the standard and can be used when dealing with overseas halal authorities.

"It's a really important part of our business, one we take seriously, one we try to get the competitive advantage by doing properly. The world has looked carefully at what New Zealand is doing in this area. And we are doing it in a way that incorporates our animal welfare considerations."


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