China makes dent in halal market

China makes dent in halal market with 1/8th of India’s Muslim population

YINCHUAN (CHINA): With 22 million Muslims, China has just one-eight of India’s Muslim population. But China has managed to play an effective role in the $500 billion export market for halal food by capitalizing on its influence as the world’s biggest buyer of petroleum products.

This was evident at a conference on Wednesday when government leaders and importers from Arab countries implored China to produce more halal food to meet the rising demand. Significantly, India with the world’s third largest population of Muslims did not figure in the conference although countries like South Africa with miniscule Muslim population were invited.

The fact that China is largely a pork eating country, and the Muslim population is just 1.4% of the country’s total population is seen by many as obstacles for the growth of a proper halal export business. But China has managed to overcome hindrances and even obtained assistance in its halal certification system from Malaysia and Thailand by using its power as a major importer, sources said.

Some like Ahmed Wahid, a halal food consultant, are extremely worried about China’s ability to ensure suitable supplies of food to the world. At the conference, he urged China to improve its certification standards, and make the production and packaging of halal food more transparent.

There was dissatisfaction among buyers about halal food about incomplete information about producers of halal food in China, and detailed statistics concerning its production and exports, which are areas that must be improved, he said.

Speaking at the 2nd China Arab Business Forum, as the conference is called, Abdullah Ahmed Al Saleh, an official of the ministry of foreign affairs in the United Arab Emeritus, said halal food could become an area of priority in the trade and economic relationship between his country and China. There was great potential in this industry as the Muslim population in the world is growing, he said.

Buyers of halal food are extremely cautious about the halal is not just a way of business. It is also helping the Chinese government bring about a form of emotional bonding with the Islamic world by involving its own Muslim population, who usually have little say in the affairs of the country.

“Arab countries have been buying halal food from China for a long time. We have no problem with food from China,” Mohammad Altowaim, a Hong Kong based Arab trader told TOI.

He admitted the main attraction for Chinese products is that they were a lot cheaper compared to those sold by Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who are among the major exporters of halal meat.