Indonesia: Food group nixes halal certification rules

The Jakarta Post

Local food producers say that the controversial halal certification bill slated to become law in October must be amended to make halal certification of their products optional, not mandatory, as planned.

Yusuf Hadi, the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (Gapmmi), said on Wednesday that lawmakers in the House of Representatives should not force local businesses to get
halal certificates.

“We have set up a team to keep an eye on the progress of the bill and we remain firm in saying that the new law should not be mandatory for local firms,” Yusuf said.

“There are still a group of non-Muslims in the country who account for 10 percent of the total population of 240 million people. We ought to not forget their needs,” Yusuf added.

While acknowledging that most Indonesian consumers currently favored products with halal labels, despite the sticky certificates used by the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), Yusuf said that the proposed regulation would likely burden smaller businesses.

The central government and lawmakers on House Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs have yet to finalize a price tag for the mandatory certification program, although they have agreed that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would be subsidized to ensure that their products passed muster.

Local businesses currently spend from Rp 250,000 (US$26.21) to Rp 4 million per product to obtain halal certificates from the MUI’s food, medicine and cosmetic analysis body (LPPOM).

The process can take anywhere from three weeks to several months.

The bill, which was initiated by lawmakers and not the government, was introduced to protect local consumers, most of whom are Muslim, from products containing non-halal ingredients, such as pork and alcohol.

Under the proposed law, halal certificates and labels will be required for three sectors: food, beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Certifications will cover ingredients and the equipment used to make the products.

Contacted separately, Ina Primiana, a member of the Institute for Economic Study, Research and Development (LP3ES), said that in the end, consumers would be the ultimate factor behind producers’ decisions to get halal certificates.

Ina said that under the current regulations, producers were already required to account for ingredients on product packaging.

Consumers “already have a way to determine which products are halal and which are not,” Ina said. (asa)