Although Pakistan’s halal sector is still under-performing, the country is on the verge of becoming one of the active players in the global meat trade, at least in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The sector is slowly striving to create a niche for itself in the highly competitive global market which the Dubai Chamber of Commerce says could be worth up to $1.6trn by 2018.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the country’s halal meat exports rose to $230.2m during FY14, showing a 9pc increase, compared to $211.1m in FY13, following promotional steps taken by the government, including a ban on commercial export of live animals.
About 80pc of Pakistan’s meat exports go to the Middle East and Gulf countries, major destinations being Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The other potential markets for Pakistani meat are the Asia-Pacific region, North-Africa and the Far East.
In regions like Australia, Europe, and North America, the halal market is steadily growing with the Muslim population there but is highly competitive because of high concerns for food quality and safety.
Higher per capita incomes, coupled with growing population of Muslims, have increased the demand for halal products in the EU countries
Pakistan ranks 22nd in the world in the export of halal meat. However, more than half of Pakistan’s meat exports consist of beef. Today, Pakistan is the 9th largest producer and consumer of beef.. According to a recent report, an average Pakistani consumes three times more meat than an Indian. The world produced 58.62m metric tonnes of beef in 2013. Brazil was its largest exporter followed by India (having the largest cattle stock), Australia, the US and New Zealand. The largest importer was Russia and the US was the biggest producer as well as consumer of beef.
As far as the Middle East is concerned, a major advantage that Pakistan has is proximity to the region than any of its rivals, Australia, Brazil and India, who pay higher shipping costs. However, they still control this market. Brazil commands 39pc of the region’s beef imports and dominates the meat market in Iran. One may note that the only difference between Brazilian and Pakistani meat, if at all, is the skill to market one’s products which makes Brazil the leading meat supplier. The Australian beef, obtained from quality breed of animals, has a specific niche market that Pakistan may find difficult to penetrate.
The size of the global halal products market has grown considerably during the last decade. The volume of halal market stands at $635bn per annum. This is closer to 17pc of the international food industry. Higher per capita incomes coupled with growing population of Muslims have increased the demand for halal products in the EU states.
Many non-Muslims have also developed likeness for this food in the west. The religious obligation that Muslims must consume only halal food, drink and medicine has stimulated the demand and created a market for halal products across the world which ensures a captive market for halal meat and products. Leading retail outlets like Walmart, Tesco, McDonald’s, KFC and Nestle have added halal food to their line of products.
A major shortcoming that Pakistan’s halal sector faces is the absence of regulatory mechanism. However, steps are being taken to fill this vacuum. In May this year, the ministry of science and technology drafted a bill aimed at establishing the Pakistan Halal Authority at federal level to promote production and trade in Halal products by ensuring compliance with Sharia requirements. Federal minister for commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan says the draft will soon be presented in the National Assembly for approval.
This will resolve the issue of certification of halal food which is hindering growth of its exports in certain countries. The Punjab government has set up an organisation called Punjab Halal Development Agency (PHDA) to prescribe standards and processes for certification of halal products. Exporters in Punjab claim that their contribution to halal meat and products has already been high in the country’s total exports.
Of late, the halal business in developed countries has come under threat from anti-halal groups who campaign in the social media against certification agencies. A case in point is of Australia where various food corporations have been threatened with boycotts because the fees that they pay for halal certification are, allegedly associated with funding terrorism.
A racist legislator, George Christensen recently demanded to know in a blog post: “Are groceries in Australian trolleys funding a push for Sharia law, supporting jihad groups or even backing terrorist activity?” All these outbursts are seen by the media commentators as manifestations of the panic in a small section of ‘white’ population over the growing Muslim presence in Australia, as well as in other western societies.
Originally published on www.dawn.com