Pakistan has an overwhelming majority of Muslim population as well as enjoying an enormous population of livestock. However, the country’s share in the global Halal Meat market has remained minuscule. Without mincing words, it may be said that the successive government in Pakistan, including the incumbent government, has failed in implementing the policies, most sought after by the sector players. Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Nasib Ahmed Saifi, Chairman, All Pakistan Meat Processors & Exporters Association, that are one of the leading exporters of Halal Meat from Pakistan.
What kind of potential does Pakistan enjoy in the export of Halal Meat?
Nasib Ahmed Saifi: Pakistan has a potential to earn more than US$ one billion from the export of Halal Meat alone. However, the players need conducive working environment and supporting regulatory framework. Let me highlight two benchmarks which Pakistani exports have to meet. These are: 1) certification that the animals have been slaughtered and processed in accordance with the Shariah covenants and 2) the meat is as per quality standards of the importing country.
How can Pakistan export any sizable quantity of meat when the country faces supply constraints?
Nasib: I have stated in my opening remarks that the country has a significant size of livestock, but supply constraints mar the export potential. To begin with the country hardly has an infrastructure for the breeding of animals; there is an acute shortage of grazing fields as well as fodder, no monitoring of slaughtering of females/under aged animals, modern and scientific slaughter houses and above all lack of supporting regulatory framework.
Isn’t this surprising that many non-Muslim countries enjoy a substantial share in global Halal Food market?
Nasib: The governments of these countries are fully cognizant of the requirements for the production of Halal Meat. These governments not only facilitate the exporters but also invite the foreign buyers to visit these facilities and certify that the meat is being processed according to Shariah covenants. As against this Pakistani entrepreneurs face multiple problems, from limited availability of land to finances and from high utility tariffs to disposal of waste and remains. Pakistan has spent billions of rupees on the construction of motorways but little has been invested for the production of meat meeting international standards.
The Government of Pakistan says that it offers lucrative incentives to Halal Meat exporting companies. What are your views?
Nasib: I am of the view that food industry should be exempted from payment of all sorts of taxes; ideally there should be no tax and no rebate. Payment of withholding tax can be termed ‘front loading’ because exporters’ money is stuck for long durations and they also have to ‘grease the palms’ of government officials to get the rebate cheques. The prevailing rebate payment system is not only faulty, but also does not use modern technology. In fact the moment an exporter submits export documents, the rebate amount should be transferred to his/her bank account.
Pakistan faces an ‘egg or chicken first’ situation. The government is reluctant in allowing the export of food items to avoid any shortage in domestic market. How this can perception can by changed?
Nasib: Pakistan can overcome the twin problems of shortage and high cost by announcing a policy after due consultation with all the stakeholders. Let me say it point blank that allowing export of Halal Meat will incentivize the breeders to raise healthy animals. Development of large ranches will also help in bringing down cost per animal. As a result, local consumer will also get superior quality meat at competitive prices.
Raising animals in ranches faces two threats theft and ailment of animals. How these problems can be overcome?
Nasib: At present the breeding farms hire the services of private guards, doctors regularly inspect and treat these animals and animals are also insured. I urge the Government of Pakistan to provide subsidy on insurance premium, as is done in case of small farmers. Supporting this industry is a must for achieving food security as well as overcoming malnutrition, particularly protein deficiency.