WHF-ID Netherlands highlights Malaysia's gateway for Halal trade into Europe

The World Halal Forum-Industry Dialogue (WHF-ID) troop have yet again embarked on another journey out west with the designated objective of creating an understanding of different areas within the Halal industry, and delving into the heart of issues faced by industry stakeholders. As the first WHF-ID in 2008, the bandwagon set forth to the Netherlands, where the industry dialogue was held on 13th February 2008 at The Hague, to focus on Netherlands as Malaysia’s gateway for Halal trade into Europe.

Hosted by the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC), WHF-ID Netherlands was organised by KasehDia Sdn Bhd, with support from the Mayor’s Office of the City of The Hague, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), the Halal Feed and Food Inspection Authority (HFFIA) of Netherlands, and finally yet importantly, the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) based in the Netherlands.
 
This half-day interactive and moderated dialogue was indeed prolific for the delegates, as well as the organisers. With insightful presentations and networking opportunities, the WHF-ID Netherlands was certainly filled with passionate yet well-intentioned deliberations by major individuals within relevant areas of interest.
 
Several speakers took the rostrum, beginning with HDC Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Jamil Bidin, taking the opportunity to drive home key points about the corporation entrusted to realise the vision of making Malaysia a global Halal hub. Dato’ Jamil highlighted that the best platform towards resolving conflicts and addressing concerns within the industry is actually the World Halal Forum, which is an event held in May annually, and hosted by HDC.
 
The next two speakers that followed suit were Abdul Qayyoem – a representative from HFFIA, and KasehDia Head of Research, Irfan Sungkar; focusing on the situation of Halal certification in the Netherlands, and for the latter, deliberations on the European Halal consumers and market penetration issues.
 
The fourth speaker, Capt. Kees Weststrate, Senior Business Development Manager of the Port of Rotterdam explained the port-to-port protocol for the transport and storage of Halal product. He also announced that the Port of Rotterdam have commissioned the Halal Audit Company to draw up the Halal logistics handbook with its contents being in accordance to the standards of the National Halal Hallmark Foundation of the Netherlands.
 
This was followed by a promotional and introductory presentation on the International Halal Integrity (IHI) Alliance by its Chief Executive Officer, Darhim Dali Hashim. A case study by Arno van der Pas, Director of Bilal Gourmet Foods BV, was then presented to share Bilal Gourmet’s experience in dealing with the Halal food sector in the European market.
 
Madam Rusiah Mohamed – a representative from MATRADE Netherlands – was next to take the rostrum, with an insightful presentation on Malaysia and the Halal market. She also reaffirms Malaysia’s commitment to help harmonise the global Halal industry.
One of the many highlights of the day was the presence of the Vice Mayor of the City of The Hague, Henk Kool. He expressed gratitude that Malaysia is taking bold steps in further championing the cause of Halal internationally, and reiterated the Netherlands’ support to develop the local Halal industry.
The floor was then opened for questions and dialogue session quickly got underway. Amongst the panellists of this discussion were René H.F. Vacquier, Senior Manager of NFIA Asian and European Projects, Jan Paul Olijslager, Project Manager of HIDC Logistics Asia and Europe, and Mahmoud M. Tatari, Halal Control eK Halal System Assurance Specialist. Professor Dr. Pazim @ Fadzim Othman, Director of the Halal Research Group from the Faculty of Economy and Administration of University Malaya was also a panellist in this discussion.
 
One of the major areas discussed was the fact that there has been a lot of investment in logistics infrastructure in the Netherlands especially in the Halal-specific cold chain services. Unfortunately, a lot of food manufacturers and retailers are not aware that these Halal-dedicated services are available, and surprisingly enough, even though they are of the same cost as other logistic services.
It is apparent that there needs to be increased awareness of Halal in Europe for the Muslims, and even more so for manufacturers. The Vice Mayor of the City of The Hague, Henk Kool, said,”The time has come to raise awareness (of Halal in Europe), and exchange and share ideas together. Nowadays, in the Netherlands, we are pleased to find a great variety in foods at our local supermarkets and restaurants, catering for Halal and other ethnic foods.”
 
According to Nordin Abdullah, KasehDia Executive Director, “The challenge here (in Europe) will be the different ethnic groups in different European countries; and all (manufacturers) need to have an understanding of this. As it is, there are an estimated 30 million Muslims in Europe, but they are divided into different ethnic groups due to Muslim colonies and migrations to Europe that has taken place for the last 50 years.“Muslim consumers in Europe also need to start requiring for improved Halal standards for their products,” he added, since major European corporations are; astonishingly, very willing to comply with Halal standards to tap into this lucrative market. Nordin believes that Malaysia needs to consolidate this understanding and look for opportunities for the application of the Halal concept, right throughout the value chain; from farm to fork, and then to finance.
 
The dialogue commanded a healthy attendance of 120 participants, with the floor well represented by local industry leaders, policy makers in many government sectors, as well as representatives from Malaysia, Thailand, China and Germany. Much useful knowledge was derived from the dialogue in further understanding of the issues in the Netherlands; and participants gained insights on the prospects of developing the Halal industry in the Netherlands, which will be a springboard into European countries. The event was deemed as a successful one for the WHF-ID bandwagon.
Accompanying the industry dialogue in the Netherlands were site visits to several major facilities such as the Port of Rotterdam, VAT Logistics, Eurofigo, IOI Loders Croklaan, Bilal Gourmet Foods BV, and Rombouts Food International. The purpose of these visits were to understand and share knowledge on the system used and services provided by the facilities visited, ranging from logistics, food service, and manufacturing.
 
From the dialogue and the site visits, it is clear that truly there is an opportunity for Malaysia to use the Netherlands’ interconnectivity with the west of Europe and the EU to penetrate this global market for global players. Despite being a potential gateway for Malaysia into Europe, Henk Kool said that the Netherlands itself presents a very promising market for the Halal industry.
“Malaysia has still a lot to do in promoting Halal food in the Netherlands, but it is a good place to start with, because of the available infrastructure, and the very fact that we are the gateway to the whole of Europe. From thereon, Malaysia will be able to expand the market and develop access into Europe from the Netherlands,” he added.
For this purpose, the vice mayor mentioned that the Netherlands government always keeps in touch with the Malaysian government through its embassy in Malaysia to stay abreast of the latest developments in the Halal industry.
 
Noting this excellent opportunity for Malaysia to penetrate the European market through the Netherlands, and to develop the local Halal trade, the WHF-ID troop sees this as an important matter to highlight at WHF 2008 in May, with the goal of moving towards a sustainable development through investment and integration
 
By The Halal Journal
1.4.2010