Global mark of quality for halal food begins with Australia and New Zealand exports to UAE

imagesHalal food products from Australia and New Zealand are the first imports to be subject to the UAE’s new standards, which aim to create a global mark of quality for the Islamic food industry.

The halal mark was unveiled by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation & Metrology (Esma) at Gulfood yesterday, following a three-year development process that is part of Dubai’s push to become the global capital of the Islamic economy.

The new halal certification covers the full process from farm to slaughter to additives and ingredients used, Esma said.

The standards are backed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the 57-country body that aims to preserve Islamic social and economic values.

Within two years all food imports will need the mark to pass through the country, Esma said.

About a fifth of the global food trade is halal, according to Datamonitor, and it is forecast to be worth US$10 trillion by 2030, a Global Futures and Foresights study says.

Halal food imports into the GCC will reach $53.1 billion by 2020, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“More than 85 per cent of the food we import comes from non-Muslim countries,” said Dr Rashid bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, who is also chairman of Esma.

“We need new standards of transparency and security for halal customers. There will be no disruption to the food chain, it will be an incremental change with Australia and New Zealand the first countries to fall under the new standards.”

Dubai was the fifth-largest market for lamb and sheep exports from Australia in the second quarter of last year, according to Meat and Livestock Australia. Saudi Arabia was the fourth-biggest during the period. Much of 2015 demand is expected to come from the Middle East.

“We are privileged to be the first international exporters, along with New Zealand, to carry the new halal mark,” said David Beatty, regional manager for Meat & Livestock Australia.

“I think the UAE sees that we have solid and strong certification in place and the integrity of our food chain is fundamental to that. We do not know what the new certification will entail, but we have most appropriate systems in place already so I do not foresee any problems. The present certification system is not homogenous, so the halal mark may well benefit exporters, importers and consumers.”

The new standards will also help UAE-based exporters compete in international markets, companies said.

“The accreditation means we will not need certificates from different regions with differing levels of compliance,” said Ishaque Noor, group managing director at Albatha Consumer Group.

“It will give customers and consumers total confidence that the food they are buying, and the supply chain, is Sharia-compliant.

“No longer will countries need to question the authenticity of a halal product. If it carries the halal mark it meets the strictest conditions of Islamic process.”

Albatha’s Global Food Industries, which manufactures frozen food in Sharjah, is the first company to get the mark on its products. Esma did not disclose which countries would next be subject to the new standards for halal food imports. But in October, Dubai said it was in talks with Malaysia’s government over a deal to agree mutually acceptable halal standards.

Yesterday, Brazil’s meat export body said the introduction of the mark would not cause any disruption to trade.

“We have three different certification bodies in Brazil,” said Ricardo Joao Santin, vice president of the poultry division at the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein. “We exported 230,000 tonnes of meat to the UAE last year with no problems. We have the utmost respect for religion and its requirements.”

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