Until recently, the Islamic Centre’s Certification Committee had the sole authority to issue halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan. It issued the certification based on Malaysian standards. Conflicts arose when the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK) started to issue its own certificates.
To resolve the conflict, Kyrgyzstan plans to issue uniform standards and to form a National Halal Association.
“We sense the full support and understanding of the state,” said Myktybek haji Arstanbek, spokesman for the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation.
More products to fall under halal standards
The products now will be tested for halal inside the country because it has obtained the specific equipment. For example, a test will be performed on meat to detect the presence of pork. It is important for Kyrgyzstan to have its own standardisation system rather than just follow the Malaysian one, because Kyrgyzstan uses some products (horse milk, for example) that Malaysia has no standards for.
The move will also help the country expand its halal certification system. Until recently, halal certificates in Kyrgyzstan pertained only to meat products, Arstanbek said. Soon, halal standards will reach across more branches of the economy, particularly pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
For example, insulin for diabetics is one of more than 500 products sold in Kyrgyzstan that contain pork, he said, adding that the possible presence of banned ingredients in medicines puts many believers in a dilemma.
“Almost all of them have various additives that include components of pork and alcohol. … In these circumstances, how can a vendor, even if he is Muslim, guarantee the candy he’s selling?” Arstanbek asked.
Protection of consumer rights
Halal certification is becoming important in Kyrgyzstan not only because more residents are turning to Islam and want to make sure they are consuming halal products but also because they in general think that halal products are being more carefully checked and are healthier.
The halal mark is gradually becoming a trademark going beyond strictly religious requirements, Kyrgyz Grand Mufti Rakhmatullah haji Egemberdiyev said.
“Unfortunately, many of our people naïvely believe that, if they buy some product with Arabic writing on it, it must mean it is halal,” he said. “But this is not the case.”
Kyrgyzstan has no modern laboratory that could quickly ascertain whether a product is halal. Many producers are now going to Almaty for analyses.
To protect consumers’ halal rights, the local branch of the Eurasian Union for Halal Standardisation has acquired special testing equipment to determine the extent of a given product’s halal standards.
Furthermore, it is going to request certificates from foreign producers of food products and necessities.
Although halal standards are of a religious nature, the authorities are aware that their development can also help the economy.
“We will help the development of this standard in every way, because the halal industry today is one of the most promising industries … of many countries,” Berdimamat Adanbayev, chief of the Technical Regulations Department within the Economy and Anti-Monopoly Ministry, said.
In the long term, Kyrgyzstan could become an exporter of halal products, observers say.
“We could offer high-quality products for the meat and food-processing industries,” Deputy Foreign Minister Askar Beshimov said. “Arab businessmen take halal certification very seriously, and they quite often back out … when they learn that most of our goods lack halal certificates.