By Quratul-Ain Bandial
HALAL food is not just for Muslims but can also be marketed to “ethical consumers” who are concerned about quality products and animal welfare, said the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources yesterday.
In a bid to tap into the rapidly-growing halal food industry, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said Brunei halal products can be sold to a customer base beyond Muslims.
“Chinese consumers are very concerned about food quality and handling, and the production of halal meat ensures not just animal welfare but also the health and goodness of the product,” he told The Brunei Times at the sidelines of the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning.
“Our halal certification is quite stringent so that ensures the quality of the item,” he added.
The Sultanate is keen to become a key player in the halal food industry, partnering with Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to create a halal food processing and distribution base in the southern Chinese province.
The government yesterday inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Corridor – a direct supply chain link aimed at boosting trade and investment.
The two countries are in talks to establish a direct shipping route to cut transport time and costs.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said local entrepreneurs should take advantage of the emerging halal industry, with direct access to raw materials from the Chinese market.
Dr Hj Kamaruddin Dato Seri Paduka Hj Talib, president of the Brunei-China Friendship Association, echoed these sentiments, saying halal manufacturing and logistical support to the movement of these goods is “big business” in China.
“If there is any Brunei company involved in logistics with the pertinent experience, then they should take advantage of this opportunity in China,” he said.
“What we are lacking now is the air linkages which needs to be addressed. By sea it’s not so bad but by air there is still a lot of work to be done,” he added.
The Brunei Halal brand has so far focused on marketing its products to profitable European markets, but is slowly setting its sights on East Asia.
“At the moment, Europe is where the money is being made. China, Japan, Korea – these are all emerging halal markets,” said the MIPR minister.
Brunei and Guangxi officials have also discussed ways to boost food production by increasing exports of Chinese-grown products for manufacturing in Brunei, as well as investing in agricultural infrastructure projects.
Brunei already has the BioInnovation Corridor – a 500 hectare halal industrial park to cultivate food for export.
YB Pehin Dato Hj Yahya said they are exploring the possibility of joint production of rice, potato, chili and herbs.
“With chili, we can produce cider, vinegar and juice. That product that is sellable and could carry the the mark of Brunei Halal,” he said.
He added that the governor of Guangxi said they have ability tocultivate a potato plantation.
“They know Bruneians like potato chips so they can grow and supply to Brunei but we don’t know if there is enough scale to justify it,” he said.
The Brunei Times