Pakistan Halal Authority: a first step

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It took the government quite some time to realize the export potential of the multi-trillion-dollar global halal products market. By establishing Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA), the first governmental legal body at the national level that is coping with the entire halal sector, Pakistan has raised its chances to become a major player in halal product market.

For years, Islamabad’s policymakers showed extreme lack of interest in regulating the halal export sector. Nevertheless, finally, it has decided to join a growing list of countries that have regulated and disciplined the lucrative export industry. National Assembly, last month finally approved the pending bill to establish the PHA with a mandate that it will officially certify all items for export, ranging from meat to food, processed foods, cosmetics, cold drinks, pharmaceuticals and toiletries.

Under the mandate, PHA would develop the long-term strategies and plans for the development of halal exports, imports and other commerce-related activities. PHA is also responsible for establishing halal standards, procedures and products for the adaptation of National Standards Body. After the creation of PHA, it is prohibited to export any item that is called halal with the description or representation of being a Halal article or product unless it bears the Halal logo of the Authority.

Pakistan has entered into the global halal market arena quite late, and that is why it is still a small player. At the moment, the national share in total halal exports is close to 5 percent of the world trade. According to the Thomson Reuters report, the aggregate Islamic economy stood at 9.5 percent in 2013 and will grow 10.8 percent annually through 2019 when it is expected to reach $3.7 trillion. This forms the potential core market for halal food and lifestyle sectors.

For now the primary beneficiary of PHA would be the halal meat industry of Pakistan since fresh meat, and processed meat is currently country’s only halal product that gets exported. It has a ready market, and industry has enormously lobbied for the formation of a central authority which works with the federal government.

According to the meat exporters in the absence of a central Pakistani authority for accreditation, they needed to get the certification from each country they are exporting, which was not only costly but problematic as well. By creating a body that will issue the halal certificate under the standard prescribed by Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the government wants to tap into the OIC markets that import 85 percent of food from non-OIC countries like Brazil that tops the list with $4.73 billion.

However, few industry insiders have started to question the leadership of PHA, which is given to the ministry of science and technology. They argue that the ministry has close to no experience or knowledge of trade and specifically the trade of halal products. They argued that PHA should come into the leadership of trade and religious affair.

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