The government’s lethargy towards tapping the international Halal food market is inexplicable given the huge potential that Pakistan has in livestock, dairy and poultry sectors. Experts believe that the country can export Halal products worth $5 to $6 billion a year if they focus on a few key areas. The government, to the contrary, has for months been fighting over what is called jurisdiction dispute in police parlance. The federal cabinet is divided on whether to place the Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA) — a body responsible for promoting and regulating Halal food trade — under the administrative control of the Ministry of Commerce or the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The cabinet held long deliberations over the issue earlier this month, but failed to reach a consensus. Some cabinet members believe that since the PHA is essentially a certification authority, its functions are more aligned with those of the Ministry of Science and Technology while others are of the view that the PHA’s role — i.e. promotion of Halal products’ trade — is more relevant to the Ministry of Commerce. It was in March this year that the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet had directed the PM’s Adviser on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Husain, to present a viable plan for turning the PHA into a vibrant organisation.
However, the deadlock on a non-issue is delaying the urgently-needed steps for promoting export of Halal products. The government must do away with this stumbling block related to the administrative control forthwith and concentrate on: formulating a robust strategy to raise exports with the involvement of the private sector; expediting work on Halal certification and developing a Halal logo for all its Halal products; helping private companies develop technical skill in processing, storing, transporting and marketing of Halal products; and maintaining the international standards in packaging and marketing of Halal products.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2019.