Indonesia: MUI remains alert amid China’s barrage of halal products

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has confirmed a dramatic rise in the number of halal food products coming in from China, but remained skeptical over that country’s developing halal industry.

“The number of halal products from China has increased by 50 to 100 percent since last year,” the MUI’s Food and Drug Analysis Agency (LPPOM) chief Lukmanul Hakim told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said that some of China’s halal food exports to Indonesia, which by far exceeded those from Europe and America, were products that came from Ningxia, a province known for its Muslim Hui ethnicity.

Chinese Muslims in Ningxia, who make up around 38 percent of the province’s 6.3 million residents, recently announced that they had built a halal industry to accommodate not just the needs of fellow Chinese Muslims in China but also Muslims in other countries.

Ningxia’s halal food commission said that the province had more than 10,000 factories and restaurants that had been certified halal.

The region’s halal industry is supported by a high-tech laboratory, 15 experts and 300 staffers and is currently worth up to 50 million RMB (US$8 million).

The commission added that the industry had been working with its foreign counterparts since 2008, cooperating on a reciprocal basis with halal institutions in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Malaysia, with Indonesia soon on the agenda.

Lukmanul acknowledged the vast development of the Chinese halal industry, but said that the LPPOM, acting as Indonesia’s halal certification authority, did not see itself engaging in any Chinese cooperation any time soon.

“Sure they can cooperate with Malaysia and Saudi, but here we pay greater attention to standards and human resource competency. It is not just a matter of certificate issuance,” he said.

The LPPOM has so far approved the halal certification of 46 overseas institutions from 22 countries, including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and the Netherlands. For all its flow in halal exports to Indonesia, China, ironically, did not make the list. (awd)