THE first of six consignments of halal boneless meat was sent to Malaysia in the last week of June under a guided national programme.
Punjab’s Halal Development Agency is now trying to convince many countries to accept its certification and the Malaysians are the first ones to oblige.
The agency is mandated to certify credentials and standards of all halal products (meat, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals), both domestically and internationally.
On its part, the Punjab government is also enacting laws to back up this agency with legal cover and formalise the entire process. One hopes that the momentum continues so that Pakistan can claim a larger share in the international halal products market. The global meat market alone is worth $600bn.
As many as 15 slaughter houses from Punjab now have international acceptance
Apart from the existing huge halal market, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project has provided an impetus to planners for the development of a regional market. According to experts involved in the process, around 1bn Muslim population lives on the proposed route – from Chinese Xinjiang province to Central Asia and Pakistan. The entire region would be connected through a network of roads and rails, making regional trade the most efficient option — for being swift and low on freight.
As the network will take around a decade or so to get fully connected, this time space can be used for developing the halal certified products around the corridor.
Pakistan has all the ingredients required for serving the regional market for products. It has around 150m animals, and their population is growing at a healthy pace of around 3pc per annum. All animals are fed on natural grazing, avoiding animal feed that contains haram ingredients.
In the meat export value-chain, focus should be on attaining international standards in production, processing and marketing before Pakistan can claim a significant share in the regional or world market. Better breeding of animal fodder through improved management practices is essential. Fortunately, Pakistan has some of the finest breeds of animals. But they still have to be raised according to the sensitivities of international standards.
The processing part and value addition is also improving. As many as 15 slaughter houses now have international acceptance. A number of international agencies are helping exporters in slaughtering and building their capacity in marketing and packaging. All these facilities have cold storage and blast freezing facilities — the basic requirements for exports.
Another area where the country needs to concentrate is the creation of disease-free zones so that the entire country is eventually cleared of diseases. These disease-free zones and farms could be dedicated for export. A few of them do exist but they are not enough.
Punjab had tried in the past to create such zones with some success, but then initiatives were somehow lost. Of late, the province has undertaken huge vaccination plans, which should yield better results.