Malaysia: ‘Meat cartel bullying competitors’

The New Sunday Times has learnt that the meat cartel would go to the extent of “bullying” competitors, especially Bumiputera importers.

The cartel would control the local meat import market and sabotage other importers by playing the numbers game in setting prices to ensure that Bumiputera companies suffered losses.

This happens when the cartel companies lower the prices of meat while their competitors are in the midst of obtaining frozen beef supply from overseas, even before the containers hit our shores.

It is learnt the meat cartel syndicates would trace information on the price and quantity of the meat from abattoirs.

They would then conspire with other importers to set a low price for the imported beef in the country.

When this happens, clients of these Bumiputera importers would refuse to agree with the initial deals.

The clients would get their supply of meat from the cartel companies instead.

Muslim Halal Meat Importers Association of Malaysia (HALMIM) president Datuk Mohd Noor Ali Akbar faced such a situation 20 years ago when he was sourcing his first meat consignment from India.

This proved how influential the meat cartel had been in controlling the local market in the past two decades.

Relating his experience, Noor said he almost suffered losses up to RM100,000 due to the involvement of the syndicate, which had managed to lower the price of imported frozen beef.

He said three containers of imported meat valued at RM380,000 were being shipped to the country.

“Then I got to know that the syndicate companies lowered the price by US$10,000 per container, and that reduced the price of each container of meat by about RM38,000.

Muslim Halal Meat Importers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Mohd Noor Ali Akbar almost fell victim to the meat cartel’s tactics 20 years ago. PIC BY SAIFULLIZAN TAMADI
Muslim Halal Meat Importers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Mohd Noor Ali Akbar

“I had sleepless nights for a week worrying about this, as this was my first major shipment for an established client.

“They (the meat cartel) were able to lower the price as it was not controlled by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry at that time.

“It was a tense week for me and my wife. I would have suffered losses of nearly RM100,000 for my first shipment.

“However, I managed to get in touch with our counterpart from India and after negotiating, they agreed to sell it to us at the local price here,” he told the New Sunday Times and Berita Harian recently.

Noor said he was initially against the idea of getting involved in the meat-import business, as the profit was relatively low compared with supplying local beef.

Before he began his business, he was advised not to get involved in it or disturb the syndicates.

However, he strove for two decades and now counts his blessings.

He often shares his experiences with other importers and helps Bumiputera companies whenever they face similar problems.

He also revealed that the syndicate companies would use the services of “tonto” to avoid getting caught by the authorities during raids or checks.

Noor suggested that approved permit (AP) holders for halal beef get formally registered under HALMIM.

He said this should also be made a requirement by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS). This proposal, he said, would make it easier for the authorities to manage, trace and take action against meat importers if they were found to be involved in syndicates.

Noor said the DVS currently stipulated that a Sdn Bhd company could acquire the AP if it had a capital of RM100,000, freezers, lorries and workers to handle the meat.

“I strongly believe we can play a part in crippling the syndicate with the cooperation of our organisation.”

HALMIM has 280 members comprising importers, exporters and distributors, with 50 of them possessing the AP.

Noor said there were around 300 AP holders in the country.

The NST frontpaged a report last month about the meat cartel, which had been in operation for more than 40 years.

Senior officers from no fewer than four government agencies were believed to be working hand in glove with a cartel specialising in bringing non-certified meat into Malaysia and passing it off as halal-certified products.

These senior officers, entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that halal standards were upheld, instead received money, and in some cases even women for sex as bribes in order to turn a blind eye to the cartel’s operations and ensure that its activities went undetected.

Investigations by the Malay-sian Anti-Corruption Commission have gathered pace with the arrests of 11 people so far in connection with the case, including five Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department officers, a delivery agent, and the directors and employees of two importing companies.