Maldives push for halal tourism could boost halal food imports | Salaam Footbridge

The local halal market in the Maldives is expected to grow thanks to an increase in halal tourism, with the government launching a campaign last May to encourage the development of halal tourism sales. MHT (Maldives Halal Travel) was introduced to the Arab travel market in May 2021 in Dubai with the aim of attracting Muslim tourists to the Maldives, especially from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. MHT estimates more than $189 billion in demand for vacation packages from Muslim tourists.

At the same time, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation – the national tourism board of the Maldives – has launched a digital campaign called “Have Halal, Will Travel” to promote the Maldives in the Southeast Asian Muslim market. Is. Some resorts already offer halal food, alcohol-free rooms, secluded outdoor pools and modest swimwear rules such as Plumeria Maldives in Thinadhoo Vaavu Atoll, Kihaa Maldives in Kihaadhuffaru, Amaya Resorts & Spa Kuda Rah in Kudara and Ayada Maldives in Maguhdhuvaa, among others.

A government spokesman said the prominence of Islam in the archipelago meant that halal hotels would serve as a ready supply chain for certified food products: “The Maldives is a Muslim country, so all inhabitants consume halal food,” the spokesperson said.

Imported foods sold to its permanent population of 540,500 must be certified halal in accordance with Maldives Food and Drug Authority (FDA) regulations, said Abdullah Shiham Hassan, former director of law at the university’s Sharia faculty. national of the Maldives. “This is regularly checked and monitored by the FDA,” he explained. The country also prohibits imports of pork and alcohol for the local population. For tourists, on the other hand, import licenses are issued by the Ministry of Economic Development for non-halal foods, including pork and alcohol, to serve more than one million annual visitors. The country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs launches periodic checks to ensure food provided to Maldives residents is halal, issuing fines and shutting down traders, with help from the Maldives Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a ministry spokesperson told Salaam Gateway.

Halal meat imports

Maldives customs data shows that meat imports into the country have increased, but it is not classified as halal or non-halal at customs. For example, imports of fresh or chilled boneless beef from Australia to the Maldives, which amounted to MVR 66.57 million ($4.32 million) in 2019 and are expected to have topped MVR 71.78 million. MVR ($4.66 million) in 2021, after a Covid-19 inspired drop in sales in 2020, according to Maldives Customs data. The range of halal meat products imported into the Maldives includes chicken, turkey, duck foie gras, guinea fowl, pigeon meat and geese.

India is a major food supplier to the Maldives. Companies such as India-based Fab Agro stand to gain from growing demand. It exports halal buffalo beef forequarter slices and fillets to the Maldives, as well as other export destinations including Saudi Arabia and Russia. Demand had skyrocketed before the Covid-19 pandemic, and growth is expected to pick up as the disease wanes, Fab Agro director Prem Narayan told Salaam Gateway.

Singapore’s halal food exporters are also eyeing the Maldives. The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore recently approved Maldivian halal food certificates as recognized as halal in Singapore, opening new export opportunities for the country. Singapore Halal certificates are also recognized in the Maldives.

Charles Kunjumon, senior food safety expert at Indian consultants TopCertifier, told Salaam Gateway that his company helps Indian halal food exporters with gap analysis, training, audits and connecting with certification bodies. . He warned that such help was important, given that “halal certificates are available in the Indian market without proper implementation and auditing”.

Kujumon informed companies that India-based halal certificates are available for food suppliers exporting to the Maldives, but urged them to first verify the authenticity of the certifying body. He says this is to ensure they don’t fall foul of Maldives spot checks which could decide a certifier has standards that are too low. Importers can also use analysis reports from India-based laboratories to verify the halal status of supplies such as meat. “It is the responsibility of the importer to ensure the authenticity of the certification body or the certificate,” Kunjumon said. Accordingly, he recommended that food importers in the Maldives buy from manufacturers and producers using halal certificates issued by an in-house recognized certification body.

Meanwhile, halal-certified Maldivian seafood products are being sold, especially in the GCC region, Kunjumon said: “Buyers from the Gulf region are attracted to Maldivian products because of the range, quality and, above all, halal certification,” he said. noted. Buying from a Muslim country like the Maldives builds confidence that all Halal practices are being followed by the supplier, as they must do so for the domestic market, he said.

The direct intervention of the Maldives government also helps. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs provides halal certificates for Maldivian food products exported from the Maldives and “most of them are for fishing companies”, the ministry spokesperson said.

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