Thailand to aid Halal industry in Cambodia

Chea Vannak/Khmer Times

Flag-Pins-Thailand-CambodiaThailand, one of the main halal food producers, is seeking to invest in halal food production in Cambodia, targeting Muslim Cambodians and tourists.

The plan is included in a sub- decree on halal products to be presented to the Council of Ministers for approval this year.

The Embassy of Thailand’s deputy chief of mission Darm Boontham spoke of the plan this week during a courtesy visit to the Ministry of Commerce, where he met Pan Sorasak – the Commerce Minister.

“Thailand wishes to expand halal food production in Cambodia to serve Muslim communities and tourists,” Mr. Darm said.

He added that Thailand will help Cambodia by training Cambodian officials to understand the processes involved for halal products.

Soeung Sophary, spokeswoman at the Commerce Ministry, said Thai investment in the halal products industry would help Cambodia gain experience because Thailand is one of the main halal producing countries in Asean.

“Cambodia has started to develop and prepare halal products on a small scale since 2008,” Ms. Sophary said.

“We are now contacting development partners and trade partners from Thailand, to help us improve our production,” she added.

The standard halal products made in Cambodia will not only serve Muslim people in the country, but will also be exported to Muslim countries, Ms. Sophary said.

The draft sub-decree on halal products is scheduled to be presented to the Council of Ministers in the first half of the year, Commerce Minister Mr. Sorasak said.

The ministry, he said, has established a committee to examine halal products and prepare a roadmap for standard certifications of halal products, so that traders and the public can be better informed.

Ms. Sophary said the work is now at the certification stage for labelling of halal products sold in Cambodia.

Tourism agents welcomed the prospect of halal products sold in Cambodia, and said it could an incentive to attract more Muslim tourists to the country – especially since some of them, from Muslim-majority countries, have been temporarily banned from travelling to the US under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump.

Ho Vandy, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Tourism Alliance, said that having standard and recognized halal products would be a diversification in the tourism sector.

“A 100 percent guarantee on halal food plays a part in attracting Muslim tourists from Muslim-majority countries. It’s an incentive from just having a tour guide speaking their languages and bringing them to places with good hospitality,” he said.

Cambodia should speed up the introduction of regulations for halal food as more and more Muslim tourists are expected to visit Asean in coming years, with Cambodia as one of their destinations, Mr. Vandy said.

“We can see the large numbers of new hotels being constructed to receive the increasing number of tourists. However, very few new restaurants serving halal food are being built for Muslim tourists,” he added.

Tourism Ministry figures show that the  number of tourists from Muslim countries visiting Cambodia is still low, totaling  about 300,000 from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei and the Middle East for the first 11 months of last year.