Speakers at a discussion on Saturday underscored the necessity of forming a Halal certification body to cash in on the opportunities a trillion-dollar global market for halal products offer.
The country has a big opportunity to claim a stake in the ready halal market with agro-processed food, beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceutical items, they added.
"We need to ensure quality and standard of our food products to grab a market share of halal products," Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) President Osama Taseer said this at a seminar on "Ensuring Safe and Halal Food: present context and necessary measures" organised by the DCCI at its premises on Saturday.
He said, "Because of weak infrastructure, inadequate eco-system, poor standard quality certification and low value addition, we are falling behind in conformity assessment and losing competitiveness in the international market."
The Muslim population will increase by 35 percent in the next 20 years across the world. The global Islamic market is around $2.1 trillion which contributes to 11.9 percent of the world expenditure.
Globally Muslim nations spent $1.3 trillion in 2017 for food and beverages. Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand are leading the Halal market suppliers in recent times, he added.
He recommended supporting the private sector in research and capacity building, proper policy support, build international certification process, economic zones dedicated for halal products and new policy support incorporating scopes and guidelines of halal business.
Ambassador of the UAE in Bangladesh Saed Mohammed Al-Muhairi was present as the guest of honour while Director General of Islamic Foundation Shamim Mohammad Afjal and Chairman of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority Syeda Sarwar Jahan were present as special guests. DCCI President Osama Taseer chaired the seminar.
Ambassador of the UAE in Bangladesh said the popularity of halal foods and other consumer items have been rising even among the non-Muslim populations around the world as halal foods are hygienic and healthy.
The global consumption value of Halal food increases with 8.14 percent average growth rate annually, and over the next five years the halal food market will register a 6.1 percent compound annual growth rate in terms of revenue, he said.
He hoped that Bangladesh will soon enter into not only the UAE market but also into the global market of Halal products.
Director General of Islamic Foundation Shamim Mohammad Afjal urged that a one-stop service point be established under the BSTI for halal certification and testing.
He emphasised adopting science and technology for the development of the Halal certification process.
Chairman of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority Syeda Sarwar Jahan said Bangladesh is the 5th largest country in the global Muslim food and beverage consumption market.
Demands of safe and Halal food are increasing day by day. Food safety has been neglected in developing countries including Bangladesh. But the Food Safety Act 2013 has been enacted, and subsequently Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has been established, he added.
"If we ensure safe and halal production of meat, we will have the opportunity to explore a new window of the international market in Muslim countries. So, it is high time we work together for ensuring safe and halal food for our life and health as well as for sustainable development," he further said.
Non-halal food is a threat to the Muslims and harming the national economy, trade and tourism, said Dr AK Obidul Huq, professor and chairman, Department of Food Technology and Nutritional Science, Mowlana Bhashani Science and Technology University in his keynote paper.
He recommended establishing halal accreditation body, testing laboratories, Halal processing zones in Bangladesh.
Dr Samia Abdellatif, conformity director of RACS, Dubai, the UAE, said for Halal certification, adequate infrastructure and enforcement are needed. Bangladesh has the potential to have testing laboratories and Halal accreditation body.
She invited Bangladesh to be an active member of the International Halal Association Forum.
Deputy Executive Director, ACI Food Limited Anup Kumar Saha, CEO, Bengal Meat AFM Asif, Post-harvest Technology and Management Specialist, Department of Agriculture Extension Dr Md Saleh Ahmed, Former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Coordinating Director, the DCCI Enamul Haque Patwary spoke on the occasion as panel discussants.
Speakers said the global Halal market is dominated by the non-Muslims, so the UAE can assist Bangladesh technically and financially.
They also urged the government to allocate 10 economic zones out of 100 for Halal food processing.
They also demanded that credit facility and tax incentives be given to the private sector.