The size of the total global halal products market ranges from $1.2 trillion to $2 trillion per annum, according to industry experts. Turkey currently only has a small share of the pie, but it hopes to become one of the leading actors in the sector.
Halal products are prepared in accordance with Islamic teachings. More than 80 percent of the world's halal trade is conducted by non-Muslim countries from both the West and East. The top products in high demand by Muslim consumers worldwide are foods and beverages, confectionery, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and skincare products.
According to Food Auditing and Certification Research Association (GİMDES) Chairman Hüseyin Kami Büyüközer Turkey should concentrate its efforts on taking a lion's share of the global halal market. A greater share in the market will contribute to a boom in the Turkish economy, the chairman said. "Asian countries in particular are very sensitive about halal products. Unfortunately non-Muslim Western countries are currently leading the global halal market. This should not be the case. Turkey is a big country, and it should have a bigger role in the halal market. Turkey should replace those countries," he stated.
The importance of halal products has been gaining momentum in recent years, and halal products are in high demand worldwide. Turkey lacked a certification system until only recently, and GİMDES became the first body to issue halal certificates in Turkey. The association analyzes the preparation procedures of foods to ensure their compliance with halal standards. In addition, halal standards are relevant in the packaging, labeling, transportation and logistics of products.
Büyüközer stressed that it has become a greater requirement for state bodies in Turkey to address to the Muslim community's concerns about halal products. However, the failure of state bodies to properly address concerns has led to the emergence of civilian groups or associations having to deal with them.
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General Eklemeddin İhsanoğlu recently called on Turkey, which he said as a predominantly Muslim country and major food producer whose influence among OIC members has visibly increased in recent years, to step up and capture a lion's share of the global halal market. According to İhsanoğlu, even countries with Muslim minority populations such as China, India and Taiwan produce halal products for other Muslim countries.
Turkey's exports rebounded after experiencing a downfall in 2009 because of the global financial crisis and reached $114 billion last year. The country aims to bring its export volume to $500 billion by 2023, the centennial of the modern Republic of Turkey. A greater share in the global halal market will help Turkey to reach this target.
Turkey is set to host a fair on halal and healthy products in İstanbul in October.
According to Professor Ahmet Akgündüz, rector of the Islamic University of Rotterdam, halal foods have become a hot issue in Europe in recent years. However, he said, the failure by foundations and companies working on halal foods to cooperate with each other has led to a lack of major bodies to deal with the subject. "For example, there are seven or eight foundations and companies working on halal food in the Netherlands. But they do not cooperate and therefore cannot receive state aid," he noted. The professor also stressed that the preparation and handling of foods does not make them 100 percent halal. Producers should also be careful about their procedures after the preparation of foods, such as during packaging, transportation and logistics.
"If producers do not pay attention to all those steps in the process and ensure their compliance with halal standards then their products will not be halal. Consumers have to be careful. And so should state authorities. Muslim states should be careful about the meat they import to their countries. Turkey is under considerable threat in this sense. Halal does not simply mean products without pork-based ingredients," he added.
Association challenges halal food perception in Turkey
Some foods many Turks traditionally believe to be halal may actually not be so, according to GİMDES. The association said living in a Muslim country does not absolutely mean all foods are halal.
GİMDES recently held a kermes (fundraising bazaar) in Başakşehir, İstanbul, where all products served were made of halal ingredients. Merve Bostan, deputy head of GİMDES's Women's Commission, told Sunday's Zaman that the initial objective of the event was to raise awareness among women about halal food. "We wanted women to be more conscious and careful about what they cook in their homes," she noted. At the kermes, all products served -- cookies, salads, yoghurt, pies, jams, tomato paste, etc. -- were made of ingredients that had halal certificates. According to GİMDES, consumers should be careful when shopping and choose products with halal certificates to be sure about what they are serving at home. Bostan said her association is planning to hold a new halal food kermes either in the Fatih or Üsküdar districts in the coming weeks.
According to GİMDES, in addition to foods, consumers should check cosmetics and skin care products to see if they comply with halal standards. In Turkey, only few cosmetics carry halal certificates.
Bostan also added that her association offers regular seminars on halal food and products. She said the dates and nature of the seminars are shaped by demands from participants. "The seminars are sometimes like afternoon teas and sometimes like friendly meetings. They are mostly attended by housewives. We usually focus on three main questions during our seminars: The first is whether halal food certificates are really necessary in Turkey; the second is about the place of halal food in Islam; and the third is about criteria of halal foods and products. The seminars are free of charge and open to everyone," she said.
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