Confusion over new halal certificates

Some exporters with new halal
certification from the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) are
facing problems exporting their goods to Indonesia. The new halal
certificates are not always accepted by the authorities there.

Halal certificates are important for Muslims to distinguish between permissible (halal) and prohibited(haram) food, drink, medicine and cosmetics.

To people of other faiths, the certificates signify that a product meets high safety, nutrition and quality standards.

Malaysia, 80 percent of halal certificates are issued to food
manufacturering companies which are not majority owned by Muslims,
including multinational corporations. The certificates are necessary
for them to sell their products to Muslim consumers.

In April last year, HDC also took over thehalal certification operations from
the Islamic Advancement Department (Jakim). HDC itself was established
in Sept 2006 and also provides halal training, manages halal industrial
parks and promotes the Malaysian halal brand.

Unfortunately, the new HDC halal certificates are now causing
confusion in Indonesia. Muhammad Zein Nasution, vice-director for
certification at the Indonesian Council of Ulamas (MUI) toldMalaysiakini that his organisation does not recognise the new HDC certification.

MUI only recognises the old halal certificates issued by Jakim.

Contact between MUI and HDC 

MUI is responsible for certifying halal products in Indonesia and
Zein confirmed that there had been contact between MUI and HDC about
the matter last year. But Zein added that HDC had not yet submitted an
official report about its certification procedure to MUI.

Zein explained that the Indonesian halal certification procedure
consists of verifying the list of ingredients, making factory visits
and reviews by an audit board, before the certificate is finally
granted by MUI’s fatwa council. 

MUI expects a similarly rigorous procedure from HDC and it will also
study the qualification of HDC’s food scientists and religious

Several Malaysian exporters said that Indonesian officials were inconsistent in recognising the new HDC certificates.Malaysiakini understands
that the problem arose last year soon after HDC started issuing halal
certificates and was then resolved. But the issue has since re-surfaced.

In 2008, exports to Indonesia accounted for approximately RM20
billion. Indonesia is the largest export market for Malaysian halal
food products after Singapore.

When contacted via e-mail about the halal certificate confusion,
Mariam Abdul Latif, the head of HDC’s halal integrity division said
that “there is no confusion on this matter as we have officially met
MUI on various occasions to introduce HDC on its roles and functions
and (to inform them) that HDC (like Jakim) is wholly-owned by the
government of Malaysia.”

She also said that “official notification (of the change from Jakim
to HDC) has been formally issued to all diplomatic missions overseas
through the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” in response to a
question if HDC’s new halal certificates were not being recognised in
other countries.

Improving the delivery system

Mariam added that HDC “has improved the certification processing
time after undertaking a “Halal Certification Process Improvement”
exercise. This exercise has significantly improved the delivery system
without compromising syariah principles. However, the certification
processes remain the same as previously practised by Jakim.”

It is not the first time that Malaysia’s halal certification system
has been changed. In 1998, Jakim’s halal certification operation was
privatised to Ilham Daya Sdn Bhd. But this privatisation was reversed
in 2003.

Irfan Sungkar, a blogger and senior consultant at KasehDia observed
in his blog that: “The problems sometimes lie not in the change, but in
the consistency and stable expectation and whether the new entity can
perform better than the previous entity (e.g. whether HDC is able to
perform better compared to Jakim). 

“This is a question regarding reforms in many developing countries –
consistency, policy reversals, stability and clear expectations.”