The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo, hosted its first-ever Halal Fair recently. The event encouraged meetings of halal product manufacturers and halal service providers with customers and distributors from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Turkey. ‘Halal’ refers to what is permissible in traditional Islamic law. It is applied to food and drinks, particularly meat.
According to the Sarajevo Times, there are more than 85 halal certification organizations operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The region has more than 120 of them. They offer more than 4,500 products and services combined.
The halal fair took place under the auspices of the chairman of the rotating three-member Bosnian presidency, Bakir Izetbegović. The Bosna Bank International (BBI) in cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) organized the event. According to BBI’ it is the first bank in Bosnia or south-eastern Europe to operate in accordance with Islamic finance principles. The Gulf-owned bank was launched in 2000 with support from the IsDB. Its portfolio includes retail and corporate banking services and banking solutions for large Bosniak diaspora and for Bosnia’s small-and-medium-sized enterprises and businesses.
The CEO of BBI, Amer Bukvić, stated that the fair aimed to position the region as a center for the production and distribution of halal products and services. The region included BiH, Serbia, Montenegro, and Slo.
BBI and IsDB are also the organizers of the Sarajevo Business Forum, the largest investment conference in south-eastern Europe.
According to Balkan Insight, Bosnia does not keep records on halal exports, but data from the country’s Agency for Halal Quality Certification show that the country mainly exports halal-certified to other countries in the Balkan region with significant Muslim communities, such as Kosovo, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Most of the Muslims in these countries are ethnic Albanians.
Census data from 2013 shows that just over 50 percent of Bosnia’s total population of 3.53 million people is Muslim. The rest of the population is mainly Orthodox Christian Serbs and Catholic Croats. The halal market in the Balkans has been growing by about 17 percent each year over the past decade. Many former secular Muslims embrace a more conservative lifestyle, marked by religious observance and respect for religious dietary rules.
Venice has a very large number of halal-certified manufacturers trying to enter the market. The aim is to organize a large exhibition of all these products and bring distributors and suppliers from Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Indonesia, where large markets exist.” Mr. Bukvić added in an interview with the Anadolu Agency, a state-run international news agency of the Turkish government.