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Malaysia pushes halal exports as answer to global 'undersupply'

A booth at the Malaysian International Halal Showcase in Kuala Lumpur on April 1

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's exports of halal-certified goods are on the rise, and the government believes there is plenty of room for growth.

     The Southeast Asian country exported 39 billion ringgit ($10 billion) worth of such products in 2015, up from 37.7 billion ringgit the previous year, the government said on Wednesday.

     "We are currently at an interesting juncture whereby there is an undersupply situation in the global market," Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said at the opening of the annual halal trade fair in Kuala Lumpur.

     The global market for products that conform to Islamic law is currently estimated at 8.4 trillion ringgit, with the food sector making up 30%, according to the minister, quoting from a report on the global Islamic economy for 2015 to 2016.

     "Halal producers," Mustapa said, "are estimated to be able to cater to 20% of the demand."

     Malaysia is now in the third phase of its Halal Industry Development Master Plan 2008-2020, an initiative for driving economic growth. In the first phase, which lasted from 2008 to 2010, the emphasis was on establishing certification and support centers. The second, from 2011 to 2015, focused on making Malaysia the go-to destination for halal businesses. In the final phase, the country is determined to ramp up exports.

     With Muslim consumer spending projected to rise from $1.8 trillion in 2014 to $2.6 trillion by 2020, Malaysia sees a prime opportunity and is investing aggressively. Investment in the halal industry increased from 4.1 billion ringgit in 2012 to 10.6 billion ringgit last year.

     Mustapa said 5,726 companies sought halal certification last year, more than double the 2,336 that applied in 2011. 

     The annual Malaysian International Halal Showcase, which runs through Saturdeay, is a key part of the country's marketing strategy. The fair, now in its 13th year, raked in 1.1 billion ringgit in sales in 2015.

     A total of 528 companies from 29 countries are participating in the exhibition, including food producers as well as service providers.

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