Vast Potential For Malaysia, Pakistan & Middle East Trilateral Cooperation

Vast Potential For Malaysia, Pakistan & Middle East Trilateral Cooperation

From Hafizah Kamaruddin

ISLAMABAD, Nov 15 (Bernama) — Malaysia should not just look at
enhancing bilateral ties with Pakistan, but also endeavour to forge
trilateral cooperation with Middle East countries especially in the
halal food industry as well as other products and services.

In making the call, Masood Khalid, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry
Additional Foreign Secretary for the Asia-Pacific, said there was vast
potential for the three parties to work together in what was still
relatively a largely untapped sector for cooperation among Islamic

He said that Pakistan which has vast agricultural land and cheap
manpower could supply the primary food products especially meat,
mutton, milk, rice, vegetables and fruits while Malaysia and Middle
East countries could set up downstream industries and undertake the
marketing of the halal products, he told Malaysian journalists in the
Pakistani capital recently.

Added to this was that Pakistan has a huge consumer market of 170
million people while the Middle East consumer market nearly doubles
that of Pakistan.

This, coupled with the Gulf region reportedly importing US$200
billion worth of food products yearly, point to a huge potential that
should be exploited to the fullest.

Masood said to achieve this, there was a need for a working group
representing Malaysia, Pakistan and the Middle East countries to be set
up to look to ways to tap into this potential which will provide a
major boost to economic cooperation among Islamic countries in food

Such cooperation would not only go a long way towards balancing
trade between Malaysia and Pakistan which heavily favours Kuala Lumpur
as evident by Malaysia’s exports to Pakistan last year which totalled
RM5.95 billion while imports amounted to RM363.3 million, but also help
Pakistan in fully utilising its agricultural and livestock products.

Masood said Pakistan has been producing abundant primary food
products such as fruits and milk, but unfortunately it has just gone to
waste since the country lacked the capability and technical know how in
preserving, processing, and marketing them.

Last year alone, about US$2 billion of fruits such as apricots,
mangoes and cherries had gone to waste due to a lack of processing
industries for such products in the country.

Pakistan was expected to have a bumper paddy crop, of 6.3 million
tonnes during the current season 2009-10, while domestic requirement of
rice was only 2.5 million tons, which would create a surplus of 3.8
million tonnes of rice for the export market.

If there was such trilateral cooperation, Malaysia and Middle East
countries could take up the excess rice through their networking,
marketing and exporting linkages.

Touching on two-way economic cooperation, he said that the working
groups to promote bilateral trade, investment and business between
Malaysia and Pakistan would likely be held early next year.

The working groups and also a Joint Ministerial Committee and
Joint Business Council to promote bilateral trade, investment and
business was formalized at a meeting between Pakistan’s Foreign
Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Malaysian’s International
Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed in Putrajaya recently.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development
Department Secretary Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, in an interview in Lahore,
concurred with Masood that Malaysia’s expertise in the livestock
industry, such as technology in slaughtering, processing and marketing,
together with the halal certification, was needed by Pakistan to tap
the billion dollar meat market in the Middle East.

He said Malaysia which has acquired a world class mechanism for
processing and packaging of halal beef and mutton should take the
opportunity to joint venture with Pakistan in this field.

He said that currently, Pakistan’s livestock exports to the Middle
East were worth US$70mil with the potential to hit an export value of
US$500 million with the right expertise and technology.

“We need to work harder to meet international halal standards and compliance,” he said.

Jehanzeb Khan said Malaysian and Pakistani parties could work
together towards this especially in meeting the demand for halal food
products of oil-rich producing countries in the Middle East, which have
strong purchasing power.

He said Pakistan could also use Malaysia as a launching pad in
exporting its meat and milk products to the Asean region, he said.

Pakistan has 60 million cattle, 55 million goats and sheep and 30 million buffaloes.

Besides exporting meat and live animals to the Middle East, Pakistan also exports live animals to Central Asia.

Jehanzeb Khan said Malaysia could also collaborate with Pakistan
in milk and milk based products since the country was one of the
largest producers of milk in the world.

He said that with the genetic upgrading of its buffaloes and cows,
especially its famous “Nili-Ravi” and “Kundi” breed of buffaloes, they
are coveted for their milk with high butter-fat content.

He hoped that the upcoming visit by the Malaysian Veterinary
Department to Lahore would help to spearhead cooperation between both
countries in this field.

Meanwhile Pakistan Trade Development Authority (TDAP)
Director-General Usman Hasan, in his briefing to the journalists in
Karachi, said that among the challenges faced by Pakistan was its
narrow market focus.

Elaborating, he said that that 54 percent of its US$18 billion
worth of global exports for 2008-2009 were only going to two markets,
that is, the United States (23 percent) and European Union (28
percent), while Asian nations took in 41 percent, Africa six percent
and Oceania countries one percent.

With the narrow market focus, the export potential of products
from Pakistan which have numerous competitive advantages have largely
remain untapped, for instance, in agro-food industries and minerals.

“Even where our standing in worldwide production of primary
produce is high, our standing in export of value added products from
the same products is however low,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s vision was to broaden the base of its exports
by products which have competitive advantages via value-added
activities, product diversification as well as expanding the market