Bangladesh: Export of halal food – The compliance factor

The Financial Express

The potential of exporting halal food, particularly meat, from the country is yet to be tapped despite its high prospect — not in the Muslim countries alone but elsewhere as well. Considering the hygiene of cattle slaughter, the market of halal meat is growing fast in most Western countries, not necessarily to cater to the need of Muslim consumers. In a situation like this, halal meat should have emerged as a product to reckon with in the Bangladesh’s export basket. This, unfortunately, has not happened, and there is no sign yet that preparations are afoot to utilise the opportunity. The main problem seems to be compliance deficiency in respect of certain certification requirements.

Recent media reports say that Bangladesh stands to lose a sizeable market share of halal meat in the Middle Eastern countries — one of the major markets of the product, as it is yet to comply with the conditions set earlier for export. Indeed, certification – sometimes quite stringent – is crucial in case of most food items so that exported products do conform to the importing country’s standards. So, exporters are to fulfill those requirements as preconditions. The Saudi Arabian government was reportedly willing to procure raw and processed meat from Bangladesh subject to compliance as regards certification on the maintenance of standard and hygiene of meat by the designated agency of the government of Bangladesh. The designated agency, the department of livestock, is still way behind fulfilling the requirement.

The Saudi example is a case in point; but it does not tell all about the global halal meat market. Global industry value of halal food is projected to be around US$ 3.0 trillion in 2021 which was about $ 1.9 trillion in 2015, according to the Global Islamic Economy Report 2016-2017. Growth regions, besides the Middle Eastern and Gulf countries, include Indonesia and Turkey. The European Union market for halal food that predominantly includes meat, has an estimated annual growth of around 15 per cent and is worth an estimated US$35 billion. Halal ready foods are a growing consumer market for Muslims and non-Muslims alike in Britain and America and are offered by an increasing number of retailers. In such a scenario, export from Bangladesh is, sadly, too small. Presently, there is a single company, a well-equipped one though, that exports to some select Middle Eastern markets.

The difficulties impeding export of halal meat from Bangladesh are, for the most part, related to cattle rearing in disease-free locations and the processes involved in the pre- and post-slaughter stages. Certification is required to testify compliance as regards the entire process. The onus is, thus, entirely on the government to put the facilities in place. Understandably, once the government is able to provide required certification, which may be country-specific, it is likely that meat export from the country would become a highly attractive foreign exchange earning activity. The country, home to one of the world’s largest livestock population, has the potential to turn this sector into a vibrant and self-sustaining one.