GCC food exporters marked out as next for new halal certification

By Andrew Scott – The National

Halal food exporters from the GCC will be the next to fall in line with the UAE’s new global standard, a GCC official said yesterday.

UAE Halal MarkThe GCC Standardisation Organisation (GSO), the body that sets standards and technical regulations for the region, said it would ratify the certification in the next three months.

The halal mark was launched by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation & Metrology (Esma) on Sunday as part of Dubai’s push to become the global capital of the Islamic economy.

The halal certification covers the full Sharia-compliant process from farm to plate.

Within two years all halal food imports will need the mark to pass through the country, with exports from Australia and New Zealand the first to be subject to the certification, Esma said. The standards are backed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Esma added.

“Within three months the GSO will have given its approval to the halal mark,” said Nabil Molla, the secretary general of the GSO, which represents the six GCC countries and Yemen. “We will fall in line with the timescale of the UAE to implement the new standard. We have had a lot of problems with companies claiming halal processes, this new certification will remove the confusion and bring everyone into line. We hope the 57 members [of the] OIC will have ratified it within two years.”

Mr Molla said it would apply on a voluntary basis at first, to ensure food security, and later would become mandatory.

“Firstly, we are trying to create a consistency in the halal food market, although the halal mark will eventually include cosmetics and leather,” said Farah Al Zarooni, the director of the standards department at Esma. “We have been working closely with the GSO so it may be carried Gulf-wide, and hopefully it become an industry standard globally.”

Consultants said yesterday that the UAE’s global standard would help to alleviate the fragmentation of halal certification, which had become a hindrance to trade.

“There are over 1,000 halal logos and some companies have to place three, four or more on their packaging to do business in the GCC,” said Hassan Bayrakdar, the managing director of Raqam Consultancy.

“The new standard will take away many of the bureaucratic processes that slow down and add expense to any trader trying to do business in the GCC.

“This simplifies the market for Muslim consumers as well as the big manufacturers such as Nestlé and Mars that have been looking for a standard halal definition for some time,” he added

Hassan Bayrakdar
Hassan Bayrakdar

The mark will in particular help the SME sector reduce the risk of delays when moving goods across borders in the GCC, said Mr Bayrakdar.

About a fifth of global food trade is halal, according to Datamonitor, and it is forecast to be worth US$10 trillion by 2030, a Global Futures and Foresight study says.

Halal food imports into the GCC will reach $53.1 billion by 2020, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Last year, Dubai’s Economic Zones World revealed plans to develop two halal zones for regional and international halal product markets. Jafza Halal Zone will be built on an area of more than 850,000 square metres, while TechnoPark Halal Zone will be spread over a plot of more than 700,000 sq metres.