A Halal Food Festival was organized in the Bang Rak district of Bangkok in July last year. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
The government should promote halal-certified products to help Thai food entrepreneurs expand their businesses into a wider market, according to the Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT).
Two CICOT members responsible for promoting Halal-certified products recently said the Bangkok Post that there are opportunities to send Halal-certified products to a wider market, not only in Muslim countries, but around the world.
They said that Thailand could become a world hub for halal products if the government supports the idea.
Samarn Adam, Deputy Secretary of the CICOT Halal Section, said that the Thailand Halal Certificate was awarded after the implementation of hygiene regulations that meet the Islamic Halal food and production standards.
Companies or producers involved with halal products must be thoroughly inspected, from the production line to delivery, he said.
Samarn: Laments lack of support
”Companies are first inspected by each provincial Islamic committee, which visits their production sites to check whether their ingredients and machines are clean, to avoid contamination from haram items such as pork, gelatin or alcohol.
”We even send samples from production sites to our laboratory to ensure they are free from haram contamination.
“Then the provincial Islamic council submits the initial evaluation to CICOT. This process will take at least one month to complete,” said Mr. Samarn.
As of December 23, last year, according to CICOT’s Halal Section website, there were 5,826 business operators, 3,811 factories, 14,246 brands and 161,526 products that are Halal-certified.
Chicken, snacks, vegetable oil, energy drinks, sausages and processed meat are all known halal exports from Thailand.
These products have been exported to the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos, Pakistan, Hong Kong, South Korea, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
“During the pandemic, although exports are slowing down, Thai halal products still have momentum, and everything is now getting back into shape. I believe we can export more in the future,” he said.
Top halal exporting countries
Thailand is one of the top five exporters of Halal products worldwide.
However, Mr. Samarn said he remains concerned that halal promotion in the country is not strong enough, due to a lack of government support. Mr. Samarn said the council meets frequently to update regulations to ensure the hygiene status of halal products throughout the country; the council also visits halal production sites itself.
Adizine: Demandon the increase
“We have thousands of halal certifiers, but when we have to travel far, we sometimes have to pay costs ourselves because CICOT has to save some of its budget for other services related to our religion. We have no central revenue to distribute, and there are more than 40 provinces with Islamic councils.
So the government should provide financial assistance to CICOT to help promote Halal-certified products. It should also convey the importance of halal certification procedures to halal business operators, he said.
Adizine Nirae, CICOT’s Halal Export Section officer, said that Thailand’s halal exports have been estimated at more than $6 billion (207.5 billion baht) in the past 2-3 years. For the year just gone, it was still valued at $1 billion, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the trend would increase in the coming years as Thailand’s halal products are well received in the global market, including non-Muslim countries where many Muslims live, such as India, China, Russia and the United States.
Regarding the global halal market in general, he said that it would expand in the future due to three factors: the increase of Muslims; low food security among Muslim countries especially the Middle East and North Africa; and changes in consumer trends among non-Muslims swayed by the cleanliness, safety and traceability of halal food.
“The export trend is positive, so Thailand should push itself to develop better halal standards to gain more trust from both Muslim and non-Muslim countries,” he said.
Expansion of the product range
Thailand should explore the possibility of exporting more Hala products, he said.
The market for halal cosmetic and personal care, for example, has the potential to generate more revenue from abroad, because in 2022, Thailand’s exports of cosmetics, soap and personal care products were worth $2.9 billion, representing 1.26% of total exports. Major customers were Japan, the Philippines and Cambodia.
Demand for Muslim fashion has also increased, he said. “Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are big donors on clothes and shoes. As we digitize our commerce, this will help us get more from these big donors,” he added.
Halal medicines are another area of potential. “Currently, there are not enough halal medicines or medicines for the Muslim community, because these medicines must be allowed under Sharia law and the production is carried out according to Islamic principles,” he said.