Egypt makes surprise change to US halal beef rules

By Max Green – IEG Policy

Consumers to pay price for new certification arrangements

US beef exporters to Egypt are having to adapt to new requirements that leave them short of options when getting their products certified as halal.

The industry has long relied on four firms to provide halal certification services for US beef going to Egypt. Following a recent audit however, the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry has delisted all four of these companies – obliging exporters to use a single new certifier, IS EG Halal Certified, based in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

FAS Cairo says it is not aware that the company has prior experience in halal certification, adding that the firm is “not known to have a pre-existing relationship with the US beef industry or Islamic organizations in the United States”.

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) says the sudden change in policy “could disrupt markets and cause confusion among industry and regulators”.

The agency says a total of seven certifiers were suspended or rejected by Egypt without explanation.

“The correspondence did not include an implementation date; however, industry contacts believe the changes became effective May 1, 2019,” it notes.

Cost implications

Industry contacts told FAS Cairo that the price for halal certification would rise sharply under the new arrangements.

Previously, halal certifiers in the US charged $10-$20 (172-344 LE) per tonne for certification. That fee is expected to increase to $220 (3,784 LE) per tonne. The higher fees will increase beef prices for Egyptian consumers by around 4.00 LE per kg. The price impacts will be larger if import volumes are reduced.

The US shipped 61,700 tonnes of beef liver to Egypt in 2018, down from 122,000 tonnes in 2014.

Requirements for certification of religious, or halal, slaughter vary according to country. Other large Muslim-majority countries, such as Qatar and Indonesia, maintain finite lists of certifiers; currently, both have approved six US-based certifiers now delisted by Egypt.

Other countries, such as Kuwait, accept certification from any Islamic body in the exporting country. Egypt is now the only US trading partner having only one authorized halal certifier.