News From : DagangHalal.com (26 Nov 2009)
The government is stepping into an arena it has previously tried to stay clear of – the certification of New Zealand exports as “halal”, or “clean” in terms of Islamic religious rules.
New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has announced that organisations which certify halal meat for export will be subject to government oversight “to standardise halal certification and improve assurances to our trading partners”.
“While the proposed model focuses currently on meat exports, it could be extended to include dairy products in the future,” said NZFSA market access director Tony Zohrab.
NZFSA has added halal export certification for Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East to the list of additional assurances it provides to importing countries.
Halal certification in New Zealand has not previously been directly regulated by government officials.
But trade and food officials have been dragged into two big rows since 2005 with Malaysia and Indonesia, after meat companies failed to solve the problems.
In both cases there has been speculation by New Zealand farmers that the countries are seeking to clip the ticket on other nations’ produce by insisting on their own standards.
New Zealand has only two certifying authorities, New Zealand Islamic Meat Management (NZIMM) and the Federation of Islamic Associations (FIA) and Indonesia has said it will no longer recognise either.
NZIMM mainly certifies meat, and the FIA does most of the dairy exports.
Trade Minister Tim Groser has said Indonesia’s planned ban in 2010 on $100 million of NZ beef imports – and potentially $450m worth of dairy exports – requires a longterm solution.
Now new proposals for the halal trade have been announced by NZFSA “to provide a greater level of commercial certainty for exporters and halal certifiers in the future”.
“We want to improve and future proof the existing certification system so it delivers robust and credible assurances … and has the confidence of all halal markets,” Zohrab said.
Instead of leaving the meat and dairy industries to oversee the certification agencies, new rules will specify standards of competence, which will be audited.
These standards will allow ” any approved halal organisations to offer halal export certification services to the meat industry” .
Zohrab said there was a lot of international activity on development of halal standards and the extension of halal principles to other products.
Key proposals include:
Zohrab said Islamic authorities in the destination markets will determine which New Zealand bodies can provide certification for their market, but did not indicate whether new certification agencies backed by Indonesia or Malaysia were expected to be set up here.
The Indonesian Government has said it is considering whether it will recognise the New Zealand certification companies or will require certification from an Indonesian source.
Prime Minister John Key last week told Federated Farmers New Zealand has a chance to be a food basket for the aspiring middle classes in Asia.
The market would expand as the middle classes of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Gulf States, and other Islamic nations grew.
“There are some sensitive issues around halal certification and the government is working through these with Malaysia and Indonesia,” he said.