“The proposed centre will undertake required tests for halal food and other products... with the aim to be the first international reference in the food industry worldwide,” said Salem bin Mesmar, assistant director general for the Health, Safety and Environment Monitoring Sector at Dubai Municipality.
“The move is expected to boost the business activities of Dubai as it comes in the most wanted context in both local and global levels. Due to the increased activities of food trade and other products, Dubai can serve the entire world as an authorised centre to issue halal food compliance certificates and accredit other products such as medicine, leather and cosmetics.”
Lack of global standards is barrier to growth
The International Centre for Halal Products is aiming to take 10% of the global certification market within three years, according to Hussain Nasser Lootah, a member of the Supreme Committee of Islamic Economy and director general of Dubai Municipality, noted local daily Gulf News.
A November 2013 report by Thompson Reuters, commissioned by the Dubai government, estimates the global islamic food market to be worth more than US$1 trillion a year. Currently there are no central halal certification bodies in the Middle East, and the report blamed the issues facing the industry on a lack of standardised certification.
“The credibility of halal food certifications is a barrier for the industry’s growth as there is fragmentation of standardisation and regulatory methods globally. Also, dedicated halal food companies are highly fragmented and are struggling to scale and operate efficiently,” it said.
Islamic world left behind in halal trade
Halal certification has been a major issue across much of the Islamic world, resulting in a limited market for religiously acceptable foods between Muslim-majority countries. Currently the largest exporters of halal meat to the Middle East are Australia, Brazil and India, leading The Economist to estimate that non-Muslim-majority countries have captured 80% of the world's halal food supply.
Dubai's International Centre for Halal Products forms part of the emirate's strategy to become the capital of the world's Islamic economy, at the direction of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler.
There is no central halal authority within the UAE, but Dubai Municipality's Bin Mesmar said the centre would build on Dubai's current certification systems.
“A specific centre for accreditation and certification has been already established for the comprehensive systematic coverage of halal food operations at local level. The current facilities and infrastructure of Dubai will help it easily establish this first international centre in the field of halal food accreditation,” he explained.