IDB promises to support Kyrgyzstan’s halal industry

Written by Maria Levina – The Times of Central Asia


BISHKEK (TCA) — The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is interested in a project to introduce a new halal certification system in Kyrgyzstan, the Economy Ministry of Kyrgyzstan said.

The Center for Standardization and Metrology under the Ministry held a meeting with IDB expert Abdurakhman Dialy who announced the Bank’s intention to partly finance the project implementation.

The IDB expert familiarized with the state of the halal industry in Kyrgyzstan and plans to introduce the halal certification system by the Economy Ministry together with the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan needs this certification system to enhance the export potential of the country.

In recent years, more and more products have been sold under a halal label in Kyrgyzstan. At first it was applied to meat products only, but later eggs, starch noodles and even taxi services were sold as halal.

Experts doubt that such a broad use of the halal term can be justified, as it is rather a means to attract the attention of buyers and increase sales, given that a single private company issues halal certificates in the country.

For Muslims, Halal simply means permitted or lawful. So halal food means any food allowed to be eaten according to the Sharia law.

Halal certification means that food has been subjected to approved certification systems which guarantee consumers that the food has no forbidden components. Haram is the opposite of halal (forbidden). Food can be forbidden in Islam if it includes blood, alcohol, meat or any products from a forbidden animal, including pigs, carnivorous animals or birds of prey.

The Economy Ministry developed a Halal industry development concept in the Kyrgyz Republic which was approved by the Government. The Ministry is the body that coordinates implementation of the Concept.

The Concept aims to promote halal products both in domestic and foreign markets. The Concept is based on the implementation of green economy principles, a promising vector for Kyrgyzstan due to its natural conditions.

According to the Concept, 80 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s population is Muslim, and the demand for halal products in the food market is growing every year. However, there is no unified mechanism for the evaluation and certification of products as halal. Therefore, halal labeling currently does not guarantee compliance with sanitary norms and rules as well as regulations imposed by halal standards.

The Concept pays primary attention to meat products, for which Islam has the most stringent requirements in terms of compliance with halal. More than five hundred enterprises are now processing meat in Kyrgyzstan, and 90 percent of them are low-power companies. Numerous mini-workshops do not comply with health standards and modern technological processes which is not safe for public health.

The Concept also proposes selling beekeeping products under the halal brand because ideal climatic conditions of the country allow obtaining high quality and environmentally friendly mountain honey, which can be certified as halal.

The country has opportunities for the creation and development of the halal industry in such areas as food and light industry, banking, education, perfumes and cosmetics, and pharmacology. This is especially important in the Eurasian Economic Union where product requirements are more stringent not only in terms of halal but also general sanitation. According to the Economy Ministry of Kyrgyzstan, products with certificates issued by the local Center for halal industry cannot be exported to the EEU countries. Kyrgyz manufacturers wishing to supply food products to the EEU countries should carry out its testing in accredited EEU laboratories.

It was decided to use the Malaysian halal standards adopted not only by Islamic countries but also in Europe and Latin America.

Currently, there is no official body that regulates the use of halal labeling in Kyrgyzstan, and accreditation of conformity assessment bodies for halal products is voluntary. A private organization, the Center for Development of Halal Industry, now issues certificates for halal products.

Some Islamic experts believe that the halal sign is only required for meat where the risks are possible while other products do not need such a labeling. For example, the United Arab Emirates buy products from around the world but they require halal certification for meat only.

The halal industry has been successfully developing in neighboring Kazakhstan. The Association of the Halal Industry of Kazakhstan has built a laboratory for the implementation and monitoring of this standard.

Kyrgyzstan is an ideal place for the development of halal animal husbandry because the cattle graze on alpine pastures here and this attracts potential buyers of meat. Therefore, the country should develop the industry on the basis of the halal standards.