Indonesia: New agency unprepared for halal certification tasks: Ombudsman

With less than a month before halal certification will become mandatory, an assessment by the Indonesian Ombudsman has found the Halal Certification Agency (BPJPH) unprepared for the task of issuing halal certification.

The 2014 Halal Products Guarantee Law, which requires products distributed in Indonesia to be halal certified, is meant to take effect five years after the law was passed, or by Oct. 17. Observers, however, have said that certain problems surrounding the implementation remain unsolved.

According to Ombudsman member Ahmad Suaedy, halal product guarantor agencies (LPH) have not been established evenly throughout the nation, and the new price for halal certification had yet to be decided.

“They also need to set standards and procedures for the recruitments of LPH auditors and supervisors,” he said recently at a press conference at the Ombudsman office in Jakarta.

Ahmad added that a temporary solution would be for the BPJPH to rely on the Indonesian Ulema Council Food and Drug Analysis Agency (LPPOM MUI) as the LPH starting on Oct. 17.

“The MUI has approved the arrangement that local LPPOM MUI offices will serve as the LPH,” said Religious Affairs Ministry senior staff member Janedjri M. Gaffar, adding that the local offices would be effective in reaching local businesses.

However, he added that local governments, universities and Islamic centers could also function as LPH, as long as the auditors underwent training and competency exams, which would be held by the MUI.

Janedjri added that, even though the due date was near, the law would be implemented gradually to first be required for food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics and later for services, such as slaughterhouses.

He went on to say that businesses whose halal certifications were valid until 2020 did not need to renew their certificates.

The fee for halal certification under the new law, Janedjri said, was still being discussed with the Finance Ministry and would be announced early next month.

While certification was under the MUI’s authority, the agency charged Rp 4 million (US$287) to Rp 5 million for a halal certificate.

“We will ensure that the new tariff will not be a burden to small and medium enterprises,” he said, adding that the law stipulated “giving facilities” to MSMEs, such as providing them with government-appointed halal product supervisors.

According to Janedjri, the new halal certification registration requires business owners to file a request with the BPJPH, which will then appoint a delegation from the LPH to do the halal assessment. The result will be sent to the MUI, where a halal “fatwa” trial will be held to grant or deny products or services halal status. Lastly, the BPJPH would issue the certificate based on the MUI’s decisions.

He argued that the MUI would be “very involved” in the halal certification process, as it had the authority to declare products and services halal.

Despite the highlighted issues, BPJPH head Sukoso remained confident that the agency will be able to handle the task of issuing halal certifications.

“We remain confident that on 17 Oct. everything will proceed smoothly, it is the mandate given to use after all,” Sukoso said on Tuesday.

Sukoso added that the certification would be implemented in phases and that the agency had to take advantage of existing infrastructure with regard to the LPH, such as the LPPOM MUI, which had been issuing certificates for a long time.

Recently, 31 regional LPPOM MUI offices requested a judicial review with the Constitutional Court regarding the law, which shifts authority for managing halal certification from the MUI to the BPJPH, citing concerns regarding the new agency’s capability to issue halal certificates.

According to the law, the LPH is tasked with auditing products to be certified as halal. Each LPH should have a minimum of three auditors certified by the MUI. Meanwhile, the MUI’s LPPOM has 1,601 certified halal auditors in offices across the country’s 34 provinces.

The MUI expressed doubt about the BPJPH’s ability to perform do the task as efficiently as the MUI, which had “30 years of experience” in halal certification. (eyc/tru)