A move reportedly initiated by the government to facilitate export of halal food should be welcome given the high potential and the dire need of export diversification. It has been learnt from a FE report last week that a team is scheduled to visit Turkey and Indonesia -- two halal food exporting countries with dominant market presence -- to know in-depth about the institutional mechanism in exporting halal food products.
The potential of exporting halal food, particularly meat, from the country is yet to be tapped despite its high prospect -- not to the Muslim countries alone but elsewhere as well. Considering the hygiene of cattle slaughter, the market of halal meat is growing fast in most Western countries, not necessarily to cater for Muslim consumers. In a situation like this, it was expected that halal meat would steadily emerge as a product to reckon with in Bangladesh's export basket. This has not happened, and signs too do not suggest that things are set to utilise the opportunity. This has been found to be mainly due to deficient compliance with certain certification requirements. In fact, there is no designated authority in the country to specifically look after export of halal foods. More importantly, there is no agency to issue certificates pertaining to a host of compliance needs, without which export is impossible. Although several state entities, including the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution and Department of Agricultural Extension issue certificates for export consignments of some processed foods, absence of a dedicated authority for certifying halal foods, particularly meat, is a key deterrent to exporting these products.
Indeed, certification is crucial in case of most food items, and is very stringent in respect of meat products. It has been gathered that the Saudi Arabian government was willing to procure raw and processed meat from Bangladesh subject to compliance with the standard and hygiene quality of meat set by a designated agency of the government of Bangladesh. The relevant agency, the department of livestock, is still way behind fulfilling the requirement.
Global industry value of halal food is projected to be around US$ 3.0 trillion in 2021 which was about $ 1.9 trillion in 2015, according to the Global Islamic Economy Report 2017-18. Growth regions, beside the Middle Eastern and Gulf countries, include among others European Union countries where with an annual growth of around 15 per cent, the market size is estimated at US$35 billion. The difficulties impeding export of halal meat from Bangladesh are, for the most part, related to cattle rearing in disease-free locations and the processes involved in the pre- and post-slaughter stages. Certification is required to testify compliance as regards the entire process. It is here that the onus lies entirely on the government to put the facilities in place. Understandably, once the government is able to provide required certification, which may be country-specific, it is likely that meat export from the country would become a highly attractive foreign exchange earner.