More Chile companies seek halal certification

A GROWING number of companies from Chile are going for halal certification as they look to increase their exports to Asia, including Malaysia.

There are currently 54 halal-certified export-oriented companies in Chile, most of which are in food-related businesses.

They obtained their certification from the Islamic Centre of Chile, which is acknowledged by the Malaysian halal certification body, Jakim.

Diego Osses, an official from Chile’s Halal Development Department, said Chilean companies are keen to export to Malaysia as it is a hub to the rest of the Muslim countries in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia also has a halal standard that is globally known, and is a way for them to reach out to the world’s estimated 1.8 billion halal consumers.

Several of them, including mussel producers St Andrews SA and Toralla SA, became exhibitors at the Malaysian International Halal Showcase (Mihas) this week as they are keen on finding local distributors for their products.

Chile is the world’s second largest exporter of mussels.

“To be able to sell here in Asia, and Malaysia, you have to adapt and become halal-certified,” Toralla’s export manager Pedro Garcia Garcia told Business Times on the sidelines of the event.

Toralla, which generated a revenue of US$9 million (RM27.54 million) last year, exports 95 per cent of its products, mainly to Europe and the US.

It obtained its halal certification in 2007 as it wanted to tap into Asia. It hasn’t started selling in Malaysia as yet.

Its rival St Andrews, the second largest mussel exporter in Chile, aims to double its exports to Asia this year from about 600 tonnes last year.

In Malaysia alone, it hopes to sell some 200 tonnes of mussels compared with about 40 tonnes last year.

Its biggest markets in the region, however, are Singapore, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

“I think this will be the year to increase our presence in Malaysia. Mihas will be the start of new sales for us,” its market manager Fernando Prieto said.

St Andrew’s, which produced 9,000 tonnes of finished products last year, of which 95 per cent was exported, sells under the brand name “Chiloe Seafoods” and was halal-certified last year.

Valle Grande SA, Chile’s largest exporter of bott-led extra-virgin olive oil with a revenue of US$7 million (RM21.42 million) last year, started exporting to Asia some four years ago, selling 50,000 litres last year, with Taiwan as its biggest market.

The company, whose brands include Olave and Huasco, is now keen to start exporting to Malaysia and Singapore and as such, obtained its halal certification last year.

“We’re the first olive oil company from Chile to try to penetrate the market here … we’re in discussions with potential distributors,” export manager Fernando Almuna said in a separate interview.

While it is tough competing in a market where extra-virgin olive oils from Italy and Spain are more popular, Chilean oils that are exported tend to stand out for their high quality, as evidenced by their low acidity levels, he claimed.