Pakistan plans to boost export of halal productsArchive
ISLAMABAD: Fruity sweets and packets of chicken soup that fall foul of halal laws are disappearing from shop counters as Pakistan looks to clean up its Islamic food credentials to boost exports to Gulf states.
At the start of the year the government published a list of around 20 imported food products it said were not halal, or permitted under Islamic law.
Shops in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the people are Muslims, already do not stock pork or alcohol — with a few extremely rare exceptions for foreigners and the small Christian minority.
Now the government wants to crack down further on products using alcohol and pork derivatives as ingredients. So amongst other things, Pop-Tarts are off the shelves in many stores, along with imported jelly, sweets and several European brands of chicken soup.
They have been found to contain ingredients banned in Islam, such as wine or gelatine derived from pork, or extracts from chickens not killed in accordance with Sharia.
There is so far no extra obligation on shopkeepers to pull products from the shelves, but some have decided to act. “We heard about the new rules and decided not to take any chances,” one Islamabad shopkeeper said.
Other shopkeepers are putting up signs warning customers to check the ingredients of imported products carefully before buying. Some are even quietly telling customers not to buy certain products over fears, sometimes misplaced, that they contain banned substances.
A draft law seen by AFP and due to be scrutinised by lawmakers in the coming months plans to sort out which products are halal and which are not, and set up an inspection service.
The aim is to create a Pakistan Halal Authority with the goal of boosting food and agricultural exports to wealthy Gulf states.
Pakistan’s is a late arrival to the international market for halal products that has been growing in recent years and is estimated to be worth up to $700 billion worldwide.
“Now there is awareness (about halal), people go through the composition, the contents. Earlier, the awareness was not there, nobody was aware of these non-halal contents,” Mian Ijaz, a senior official at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said.
The science ministry is taking the lead on the bill as it has laboratories for testing products.
One of the architects of the proposed federal halal authority, retired judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Khan, said the plan would mean products were clearly labelled and should give shoppers peace of mind.
“Anyone importing for instance chicken from sources that are dubious or which for people have doubt, like from China... will have to have accreditation from the authority working under the Pakistan Halal authority,” he told AFP.
However the main aim of the project is not to restrict imports, but to boost exports.
Sitting at the crossroads of the increasingly wealthy Muslim countries in Central Asia and the rich Gulf states, where demand for halal imports has boomed in the last decade, Pakistan is well-placed geographically to increase its export in, for example, meat.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2015
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