News From : DagangHalal.com (01 Apr 2010)
The Government has issued a new framework for halal certification, after a series of rows in Malaysian and Indonesian markets, with officials taking a rare run at regulating religious standards.
“We are using it in negotiations with the likes of Malaysia and Indonesia to counter some of their previous concerns, and also to try to tie down exactly what they require,” said Food Safety Authority deputy director for export standards, Bill Jolly.
“While the Government’s not particularly religiously competent, most of halal requirements are actually objectively measurable,” he said.
Islam has religious rules for halal food, including specific rules for how animals should be slaughtered, but certification in New Zealand has not previously been directly regulated by government officials.
“The actual bit which relies on something which is a little bit more spiritual is reasonably small — if you can write it down, we can actually help produce a standard associated with that,” said Mr Jolly.
New Zealand was asking Islamic countries to tell it what they wanted certified, and was working to ensure certifiers worked to those requirements, he told a briefing for journalists.
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.
Previously Government regulators have kept halal certification at arms length, relying on two commercial agencies which have been handling most of the certification of meat and milk products.
But the problems in South East Asia — particularly with the world’s most populous Islamic country, Indonesia — last year led the Government to 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”.
NZFSA has added halal export certification for Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East to the list of additional assurances it provides to importing countries — a burgeoning list with customer countries seeking assurances on issues as varied as animal welfare and — in the case of fish — the legality of the catch.
Mr Jolly said one driver was to try to avoid exporters having to have multiple certifications — with a different certifier for each individual country — and said it was expected the certification bodies would be able to certify for most markets.
“It’s a process thing — it’s going to take a while,” he said.
Transitional cover for halal organisations is available up to October 1, and bodies have up to May 1 to apply to be listed as an approved halal organisation.
Until this year New Zealand has only two certifying authorities, New Zealand Islamic Meat Management (NZIMM) and the Federation of Islamic Associations (FIA) but 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 said the potential impact on $100 million of NZ beef imports — and potentially $450m worth of dairy exports — required a long- term solution.
– The National Business Review