Expo, Conference and Food-tasting Area

The problem here is that, without a recognized halal certificate, it is nearly impossible to export food and cosmetics to Islamic countries. This being the case, the certification of halal products will be among the major topics to be explored at HALAL HANNOVER, a new trade fair premiering in Hannover, Germany, from 6 to 8 March 2020.

A few years ago, a number of European halal certifiers – among which were several prominent German mosques – lost their accreditation from the Gulf States. The inspectors from the relevant UAE ministry had determined that their checking processes were too superficial and unprofessional. The result: container upon container of high-value foodstuffs were left to spoil in the customs zone at Dubai airport because their halal certificates were declared invalid. Today there are only three accredited certifiers in the whole of Austria and Germany, and none at all in Switzerland.

In order to be able to issue certificates meeting the high standards mandated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and which comply with EU hygiene standards, certification bodies now need to obtain UAE accreditation, a costly and time-intensive process that can take up to two years. In addition, each applicant can expect multiple inspections by UAE government inspectors conducting random verification checks of its certificates at the premises of businesses it has certified. The UAE authorities require each certifying body to have special staff members with internationally recognized academic degrees in both food chemistry and Islamic studies. Consequently, accreditation is very costly. All up, a certifier can expect to pay around 100,000 euros for initial accreditation from Dubai. One of the most sought-after accreditations (UAE.S.2055/GSO 2055/OIC/SMIIC) is valid for only three years – after which the certifying body needs to be audited anew. This prized assemblage of letters and digits gives its holders the authority to certify exports into the seven emirates of the UAE, the six GCC states and the 56 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

IIDC – Islamic Information, Documentation and Certification GmbH (iidc.eu) – is a certifier with branches in Austria, Germany, Hungary and France. It offers certifications throughout Europe and, with the exception of meat products, in Switzerland as well. If gaining accreditation is time-consuming and cost-intensive, so, too, is certification for manufacturers. What's more, certification is only valid for one year, after which it must be renewed. But despite all this rigor and expense, there are still gaps. According to Günther Ahmed Rusznak, CEO of IIDC, Linz, no certifier can offer its customers worldwide acceptance for its products. IIDC will have a stand at HALAL HANNOVER. As part of the show´s conference program, Mr. Rusznak will speak on the significance of, and various standards involved in, halal certification.

As well as servicing the German-speaking market, the halal industry is also focused on the immensely larger and extremely lucrative global halal market, which has a population of some 1.8 billion people. Accessing that market requires sound expert advice and the right choice of certifier. That can be a costly lesson to learn, as a small German cheese maker recently discovered when its halal certification was accepted in Malaysia but not in the GCC states. This was costly because one of the GCC states, the UAE, is home to Gulfood, the world's largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition. Dubai, where the exhibition is held, is a vitally important export hub for all producers of halal foods. For high value products, Dubai is a key gateway to other Muslim markets, to the EU and even China.

Less than 10 percent of halal production is controlled by Muslim-owned companies. The Swiss food giant Nestlé, for example, is the world's largest producer of Islam-compliant food and beverages, and many of its factories have been halal-certified for years. Nestlé's halal certifications are managed by its representatives in its target markets; its head office in Vevey on the shore of Lake Geneva merely coordinates the exchange of the actual goods. The German-speaking world's SME-scale producers, on the other hand, have very little certification expertise and are reliant on professional advice.

Market conditions and opportunities are changing at an ever-faster rate, it seems. For example, Indonesia this year revoked all of its accreditations, forcing all certifiers to seek re-accreditation. Germany's IIDC is close to achieving re-accreditation. Meanwhile, Turkey's government is in the process of developing its own halal certificate, an initiative that will have implications for the country's many Turkish-German supermarkets. So, is it worth it for SME-scale businesses to enter the Muslim markets? That's a question a good consultant should be able to answer, and any good certifier should also be able to steer its clients to the right trade shows.

HALAL HANNOVER is the new platform for business and knowledge-sharing premiers from 6 to 8 March 2020, focusing on halal-compliant food, beverages, cosmetic products and travel. As well as an exhibition, it will feature an international conference program and a special food-tasting area. Day one of the three-day event is for trade visitors only, while days two and three (Saturday and Sunday) will also be open to consumers.