Halal sector rakes in big bucks

|     Danial Norjidi     |

THE local Halal industry generated revenue of B$88 million by the end of 2016, according to data reported from 35 companies.

This was shared in a speech by Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar during the opening ceremony of the Brunei Halal Showcase 2017 (BruHAS 2017) at the BRIDEX Conference Hall in Jerudong yesterday.

“Alhamdulillah, we have seen growth of Brunei Darussalam’s Halal sector over the last five years. Brunei Darussalam is currently ranked 12th overall among 73 countries according to Thomson Reuters report on Global Islamic Economy 2017. This is an improvement of five places from 17th position last year,” the minister said.

He shared that this increase is attributed to the growth of Halal travel and strong performance in the Halal food ecosystem development. The Halal certification-led food product lines have also made a strong entrance in the UK market and Brunei Halal is getting due recognition as a result.

“At the end of 2016, the revenue generated by the local Halal industry was an estimated B$88 million reported from 35 companies with 835 jobs, mainly from the Halal food sector.

“I believe there are more than 35 companies in our Halal food manufacturing industry today. Hence, I encourage the Halal industry to report their data into the Business Reporting Portal to enable the government to better understand the contribution of the Halal industry to the economy and introduce appropriate strategies to develop and grow the industry further. May Allah the Almighty continue to bless Brunei with continued growth.

Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar with Simpor Pharma personnel at the Brunei Halal Showcase 2017 . – BAHYIAH BAKIR

“We must also leverage on our existing Halal food and pharmaceutical industry and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and grow the sector to expand in high-value niche areas of the Halal food and pharmaceutical industry.

“The Global Halal food and lifestyle sector is slated to grow to three trillion US dollars by 2021, so we should be looking forward to allow our local MSMEs to benefit from this trend.”

The minister highlighted that ‘Halalan Thayyiban’ is a lifestyle principle that local MSMEs should be proud to hold onto. “It gives us and what we offer the unique identity of not just meeting the minimum acceptable standards according to Islamic law, but also to adhere to the Maqasid Syariah that aims to ensure the entire value chain can provide the highest standard for food that is ethical, humane, responsible and sustainable.”

This, he said, is not limited to slaughter, but ranges from ethical and sustainable farming, to transportation, slaughter, processing and logistics to provide integrity in the entire supply chain. “It is a standard that the global community, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, aspire for.”

The minister highlighted, “We must create opportunities and the ecosystem for our local MSMEs to enter into and thrive in the Halal sector – through improving efficiency of obtaining Brunei Halal certifications, generating awareness of reaching the standards to obtain certification and creating collaboration between our MSMEs and foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the Halal sector so that our MSMEs can benefit from international support and economic spin-offs from the FDI activities.”

Elaborating further, he shared, “First of all, from the government’s and regulator’s perspective, it is our duty that MSMEs and the public are able to understand and access information on Halal certifications, guidelines, and standards, while also making the process efficient, clear and convenient.”

Over the past year, the government has reduced the time taken to obtain Halal certification of food products from more than six months to 45 calendar days, he noted.

“We must now aim to certify in less than half of this time while maintaining the efficiency and transparency of the process. The government will also continue to conduct dialogues and socialisation of Halal Certificate and Halal Label Order (Amended) 2017 to raise awareness and listen to feedback from businesses and the public.”

Twelve such dialogues were conducted throughout the country, and the minister asserted that the issues raised by businesses and consumers must be addressed in a timely and efficient manner.

“Secondly, we must ensure that foreign direct investment companies and government-linked companies (GLCs) in the Halal sector provide necessary support to our local MSMEs.”

As examples, he noted Simpor Pharma, an FDI manufacturing facility producing Syariah-compliant pharmaceutical products; Ghanim International Corporation Sdn Bhd, a GLC for marketing and branding Halal food products at home and overseas; as well as Western Foods and Packaging Sdn Bhd, a plant for palm oil refining and manufacturer of industrial margarine.

“I urge our local MSMEs to make full use of them, either to manufacture, brand, market and distribute their products in the domestic, regional and global markets.”

The minister said that FDI companies will continue to remain an important source of expertise, resources and international networks to expand the market reach of Brunei Darussalam’s Halal sector, adding that they are also an important source of employment for the sector.

He shared the examples of two FDI companies that are expected to begin operating by the end of 2017 – Western Foods and Packaging Sdn Bhd as well as Saahtain Foods, producer of ready-to-eat meals – that are expected to generate 132 jobs in their operational phase.

Touching on future diversification, the minister affirmed, “Looking ahead, we must continuously think of other opportunities to ensure the competitiveness and sustainability of our Halal sector. This means finding areas where Halalan Thayyiban principles will continue to be relevant to current and future international consumer trends.

“There are many untapped sectors outside food and pharmaceutical sectors. There are opportunities in the logistics, technology, financial, education, tourism, and business sectors that can all be enhanced through the Halalan Thayyiban principle,” he continued.

“With that in mind, I would urge our local entrepreneurs to reflect on this and also invite FDIs to explore these opportunities. This is also in line with long-term economic diversification efforts of the nation.

“Thus, we encourage nurturing our best and brightest minds to take a multi-disciplinary approach to both understand essential Islamic values and gain technical knowledge across various fields. We see our local academic institutions, such as UNISSA, as one of the keys to realising this.”