As more goods and services are being certified as halal, calls are growing for businesses in New Zealand to take a bigger share of the Muslims-friendly industry beyond food.
"It is important that halal is recognized as more than just a commodities-based economy but validated as a much larger and broader entity that includes lifestyle, culture and politics," Business School Dean Professor Greg Whittred told the New Zealand Herald on Monday, July 2.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
In New Zealand, businesses have been focusing too much on food exports, ignoring other halal sectors.
As the Muslims-friendly industry is growing globally, the New Zealand Asia Institute has called on businesses in the country to realize other dimensions of the global halal economy.
Those dimensions include IT products, finance services, travel, and tourism, said the Institute, which is part of the University of Auckland Business School.
"In terms of investment, ideally banks or investment companies should be investing in products that are good for the economy," said Zaidah Mustaffa, International Business lecturer.
He opines that New Zealander businesses working in the tourism field could arrange halal tours as visits to mosque, praying or eat at restaurants serving halal food.
New Zealand's largest halal exports are lamb, beef, dairy products and financial services concentrated in China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.
Analysts opine that New Zealander’s location near Southeast and South Asia markets as Malaysia, Indonesia and Kazakhstan could unlock billions of dollars of future trade.
"New Zealand needs to urgently recognize the implications of being a neighbor of Southeast and South Asia, and to understand the growing networks of trade, investment and information exchange that are developing throughout Muslim Asia and that could be extended to New Zealand," Whittred said.
Experts say New Zealand can establish itself as a hub of halal industry in the region.
"It's a big market for New Zealand meat,” said Tony Egan, managing director of Waikato-based Greenlea Meats.
“Eighty percent of our country's meat processing plants are halal-certified," he said.
In the year to June 2011, New Zealand exports of halal-certified meat to Muslim markets were worth almost $490 million to the economy.
Greenlea Meats turned over $240 million last year, about $30 million of which came through its halal meat trade.
Egan says his company is increasingly exporting beef into markets closer to home, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
He noted that New Zealand has established itself as a world leader in the halal meat market over the last 10 to 15 years.
"About 15 years ago we realized that the secret to unlocking the potential of these new customers was to visit them, listen to them and ensure that we met their product and service standards,” he said.
"It's meant understanding a new customer and aligning ourselves with their specific requirements."
Together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the industry was able to establish a halal protocol for meat processing in 2010.
Egan said a significant step for New Zealand was coming up with the method of slaughter, which involves stunning livestock so they cannot feel pain before being slaughtered.
"It means we can comply with halal requirements but still meet MAF's strict welfare requirements."
A fierce debate has been growing in several countries over the ritual slaughter over the past year.
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