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Korea steps up efforts to increase Halal foods, products to Muslim countriesAn interview with President Kim Jae-su of Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Corporation

As Halal food market is emerging as a large blue ocean, Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT) and food industry in Korea are striving to increase export of Halal-certified foods and products to Muslim regions, including South East Asia and the Middle East. The Korea Post recently interviewed President Kim Jae-su of the Corporation.- Ed.

▲Agro-Food Vision Forum with Students at the aT Center in Seoul on Feb. 6, 2015

Halal is the dietary standard of Muslims, and halal certification is required to produce acceptable foods and consumable products for halal consumers. Global market for halal-certified products is estimated at 1.8 billion Muslims. Halal foods include clean and poison-free non-meat foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, honey and grains, as well as seafoods. Acceptable meats are lamb, beef and chicken. On the occasion of President Park’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the governments of the two countries concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for sharing information on halal-product market and establishing halal certification system.

Q: Halal-product market is an enormous market in size and potential. As a latecomer, Korea may face difficulty in obtaining halal certification as its procedure is complicated.
A:
First, we need to obtain complicated halal certification. Some 300 organizations around the world are issuing halal certification, and there exist 4 certification institutions in Korea, including Korea Muslim Federation and 3 international certification agencies. Currently, 133 companies in Korea, including CJ Cheil Jedang, Daesang, Nongshim, Our Home, SPC and Korea Ginseng Corporation, received halal certification for 404 products. To increase export of our agro-fishery products, the Corporation will accelerate to obtain more certifications and develop excellent products in compliance with the Islamic culture.

Q: After President Park’s visit to the Middle East countries, we expect Korea’s export of agri-foods to that region will conspicuously increase. What is the amount of export to halal product market?
A:
Korean companies exported agri-foods to halal-product market in value of $680 million last year, including $330 million to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, $180 million to Indonesia, $90 million to Malaysia and $80 million to Thailand. Export items are mainly consisted of processed products, such as cigarettes, coffee, cookies, tuna cans and beverages. And we aim to increase export amount to $1.23 billion by 2017 by increasing export items to gimchi, ginseng and soy bean sauces. In addition, leading food service brands, including Lotteria, BBQ and Delhi Manju, are operating 169 halal food restaurants in this region. Though they account for merely 4.5% in the entire Korean food service companies running in other countries, the ratio is expected to sharply increase when more information on the halal food market is provided, system of certifying halal products in Korea is augmented, and halal-certified food production complex is built. The government needs to provide various support programs, such as training of manpower specialized in halal-certified food materials and development of Korean food recipes complying with halal criteria.

Q: The Corporation has been building foundation for export of food products to halal product market since 2012. Please introduce efforts you made to enter that market, which is expected to be a large blue ocean.
A:
To open up the halal product market, the aT has been concentrating various efforts since 2012, starting with the ASEAN market. In November 2012, it held a halal seminar by inviting executives of the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (JAKIM) and installed the aT Center in Jakarta, Indonesia in July 2013. In 2013, we also held a trade consultation meeting with foreign buyers of halal-certified foods as well as a seminar of exporters by inviting the chairman of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the halal certification organization of Indonesia. And the aT and leading food companies in Korea took part in food fairs in Dubai (February 2014), Malaysia (March 2014), Istanbul (September 2014) and Indonesia (November 2014).

Q: Why did you move your branch office in Singapore to Indonesia in 2013?
A:
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world with about 220 million Muslims, representing 87% of its total population. To develop the market for exporting food products to Indonesia, the branch office in Jakarta provided support to establish halal certification institutions in Korea recognized by Indonesia, and it conducted surveys on policies, criteria and procedure of halal certification and overall distribution situation. It also contacted and arranged buyers by holding export consultation meetings, inviting buyers and participating in trade fairs, while hosting the K-Food Fair and consumer experience sessions. And the branch office provided support to Korean food companies to expand shops at leading retailers in Indonesia while installing antenna shops in regional cities. As a result, export of halal-certified products to that country increased from $68 million in 2009 to $193 million in 2014, a rise of 25% annually on average.

Q: The aT has been taking part in the Gulf Food, an international food fair, in Dubai since 2003. What is the potential of export market in the UAE?
A:
As the second largest food consumption market in the GCC region, the food market in the UAE was estimated to have reached about $2.13 billion including import of $1.8 billion in 2013. Especially, the UAE is a strategically important country as it leads unification of the halal certification standards of 57 Muslim member countries across the world. A total of 41 Korean companies took part in the Gulf Food 2015 in February this year, showcasing fresh fruits, mushrooms, sauces, beverages, snacks, noodles and red ginseng products.

▲President Kim Jae-su of aT speaks at the Agro-Food Vision Forum with Students

Q: We understand you are preparing to install an office in Abu Dhabi as a beach head for pioneering halal product market in the Middle East. What is your strategy?
A:
In an effort to increase export of halal foods, the Corporation will expand export infrastructure, reinforce marketing activities in Islamic markets, help Korean food service companies expand into overseas markets, and diffuse Korean culture to Islamic countries.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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