In an interview to the portal MuslimEco.Ru Madina Kallimulina, head of Economic Department of Russia Muftis Council, gave a brief view of arrangements for the Third Moscow International Halal Exhibition and Moscow Halal Expo, 7-10 June 2012.
Ms. Madina Emirovna, how could you characterize modern trends of halal industry development in Russia?
Nowadays Russia is not lacking behind other countries in the sphere of the development of halal infrastructure system. The internationally recognized standard for halal production, the International Centre for “Halal” standardization and certification of Russia Muftis Council, accredited regional committees, system of voluntary certification – are all in place.
In the near future we expect increasing developments of different business platforms for the halal producers of different sectors, and cooperation between them, one of such platforms is the annual exhibition Moscow Halal Expo. Muslim businessmen and halal producers from different regions of our country gradually get to know each other; they have market perception and understanding how the halal certification system works.
One of the major beginnings is the development of halal store chains in different regions of Russia. Once the system is in place, it will become a great contribution to the growth of the halal industry in our country. Presently the main task for businessmen and business communities is to draw up logistics system in different regions and to bring certified halal to the consumer from any far region of our vast country. It is enough to mention that we constantly receive requests from Muslim communities from the North and Siberia regarding lack of halal.
Islamic finance system is therefore if immense importance as every halal producer needs a financial partner and the interest based banks are prohibited in Islam. In this regard we constantly interact and coordinate the initiators and leaders of the Islamic finance projects in Russia by arranging trainings, expert discussions and involving them in our activities.
The Internet space is gaining higher importance. Halal is a topical issue actively discussed in different online social networks and websites, there are several serious portals devoted to the halal industry of various sectors. Among them are the website of the International Centre for Halal Certification and Standardization (www.halalcenter.org) and the website of Islamic economic, business and finance (www.muslimeco.ru). Moreover, our Department is working out together with the initiative group an online halal guide over Russia and CIS, which will be bilingual, with the ability to assess various places of trade and production, restaurants, cafes and other halal infrastructure areas, including Islamic financial companies (www.muslimguide.ru) .
Moscow Halal Expo is one of the basic initiatives in the development of the halal industry. What can you tell us about the process of preparation for the exhibition?
Russia Muftis Council’s project Moscow Halal Expo which we have been nurtured for a long time and have performed for 2 years, is topical, and fits with the demands of modern community. And now, businesses, people and international community perceive this project as something really necessary. Already 9 months prior to the exhibition possible participation of foreign and Russian companies was negotiated. We hope that this project will develop with the help of Allah and will be constantly filled with new initiatives and ideas, contests, events, etc.
Regarding the preparation process, first of all, we analyzed the results of Moscow Halal Expo 2011, taking into consideration the expectations and wishes of the exhibitors and participants. Bigger number of the exhibitors, improvement of the organizational process and exhibition status, positive remarks from the audience spoke for the success of the event. More number of esteemed guests from different countries visited our exhibition and we expect that the event of the year 2012 will be even greater insha Allah. We as organizers try to improve in all directions. Moscow Halal Expo for us is a special event which combines the results not only of the development of Islamic Business in Russia but the outcomes of the year-long work of Russia Muftis Council in the economic sphere.
Last year we opened the official bilingual website of Moscow Halal Expo (www.halalexpo.org), that is actively promoted and has as increasing number of visitors.
Video reports of each day of Moscow Halal Expo 2011 were positively accepted by the public, especially by those who hadn’t the opportunity to visit it. The Exhibition lasted 3 days. Accommodating the wishes of many visitors, we have decided to extend the time of the Moscow Halal Expo 2012 to four days.
Presently we are actively negotiating with various regions of Russia, from the Far East to Western part. Special attention is paid to the regions with Muslim majority: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia etc. This year we have wider information campaign abroad under the international activities of the Russia Muftis Council. Representatives of the organizing committee have visited Indonesia, Brunei, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Belarus during the past three months. We see a great interest and motivated responses from the halal producers, Islamic financial companies and media resources from different countries. We are also strengthening cooperating with the Muslim communities in the European countries.
We also try to diversify this event various additional arrangements, hold competitions and tastings, masterclass and business forums, so everyone can find an answer to his question in any field of Islamic businesses and Islamic culture.
You are actively cooperating not only with domestic but also foreign companies. Which of them are represented at the Expo at a larger scale? And for what reasons?
In many countries halal expos are mainly aimed at international market. Russia is the largest country in the world and is sufficiently capacious and rich market in halal goods and services.
But Russia is at the same time an interesting market for export of the halal products of many foreign manufactures, especially from countries with strong Islamic tradition. South-East Asia in this regard made a great step. We are expecting a larger number of the halal producers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey and Meghreb countries. Not long ago we were at friendly dinner by the invitation of Mr. Hamid Awaluddin, the Ambassador of Indonesia in Moscow, whose ambassador mission was coming to an end. At dinner we tasted interesting Indonesian products and were told about the cooking process. For example, “krupuk”, halal chips made from shrimps meat. They have no Russian analogues, but are quite popular goods in Indonesia and have positive prospects for promoting in Russia. Batik is another interesting item for presentation and export to Russia from this region. Also there is a variety of products and services from different countries that could be of interest in Russia. The Islamic Financial companies and investors could find quite a number of interesting halal oriented projects to study and invest in.
What prospects does Moscow Halal Expo provide for the foreign producers?
First, it’s the best place for promotion of halal products in Russia. Moscow Halal Expo is a meeting place for all Russian consumers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers who are interested in halal and halal has become a brand. Many buyers come to our Exhibition in order to sign treaties. After the first two Exhibitions number of supply contracts of halal products to the Russian wholesalers and retailers significantly increased, these are X5 Retail Group, Auchan, Metro etc. Among them is also a chain of stores «Azbuka vkusa», which is positioned in a high price segment.
Generally the results of participation for the foreign companies depend heavily on the goals the have. We are always open for negotiations. If there any large proposals and projects are available, we are ready to review these suggestions while preparing this year’s Exhibition as long as the time permits.
For the Islamic Business and halal certification Forum we invite foreign experts to make presentations and exchange views on developments in Halal certification sphere, to talk about new solutions in the field of Islamic finance, to share experience in the field of standardization and governmental control. We strive to cooperate with the state agencies, who comprehend the need and importance of Islamic finance in Russia.
In spite of the fact that Moscow Halal Expo itself is new and unique what could you mark out in term of public interest?
We have managed to add weight and importance to the halal in Russia. By organizing Exhibitions, preparations, negotiations, summarizing, various publications related to it, we have significantly increased the level of recognition in the society of the fact that Halal is the brand, mark of quality.
People gain more interest, come to the Exhibition, learn what it is, and tend to prefer halal, or at least have a positive understanding of it and that it is not something purely religious, but it is of high quality and useful.
Halal label appeared in many stores and retail chains. Halal is not just recognized brand, it is bought and sold; it confirms that there is business interests in halal.
Thanks to Moscow Halal Expo we have taught people, especially Muslims, to communicate and interact.
We can mention some positive responses of the participants, who noted that at the exhibition Moscow Halal Expo they see a friendly atmosphere, the desire in a quick and peaceful way resolve any arisen issues. Any preparation to the Exhibition, construction, registration etc. intimate an emergence of complex situations, which sometimes may lead to a conflict. But thanks to the coordinated work of the team such kind of issues were quickly and positively resolved, Alhamdulillah. This is one of the advantages that the exhibitors noted. These are not just companies that produce something halal, these are our brothers and sisters. It is important to demonstrate the principles of Islam in everything, including any projects that we organize.
Thank you for the interview and wish you success in the proper and timely cause.
Interviewed by Atikat Kurbanova