Europeans must be convinced that halal foods can be consumed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike without any reservations.
Halal actually means hygenic, safe and good and can be consumed by everybody, Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC)'s chief executive officer Datuk Jamil Bidin said.
As such, he said Malaysia needs to rebrand its halal concept first before tapping the lucrative European market.
These were some of the "undeclared consensus" arrived at by industry players, panelists and participants at the World Halal Forum Industry Dialogue here on Wednesday, he said.
Participants who attended the dialogue, felt that as Malaysia aspires to be a global halal hub, it is vital to ensure that the definition of halal is well understood by everyone especially the European market they are targeting.
He said Europeans perceive halal as food that only Muslims can consume, so they become sceptical, when in fact, people of all religions can consume it.
Nevertheless, the 20-30 million population in Europe are by themselves a niche market with a big purchasing power, he said.
One thing for sure, participants in discussing issues related to market access to Europe, agreed the Netherlands, was a perfect gateway for Malaysia to enter the European halal market.
"We need first to convince the Dutch that Malaysia is indeed in the forefront of the global halal industry," he said.
The industry dialogue, organised by niche communications and consulting company, KasehDia Sdn Bhd and hosted by HDC has been held regularly to keep tabs on the current issues in the halal industry globally.
About 130 participants consisting industry players, government agencies as well academicians attended the dialogue where they got an insight into the prospects of developing the halal industry in the Netherlands and using it as a springboard to the European countries.
Surprisingly, he noted that most participants were non-Muslims, a clear indication halal products have certainly garnered attention in the Dutch market.
This was further reflected by two Dutuch logistics companies -- VAT Logistics Group and Eurofrigo B.V -- having dedicated part of their facilities to provide halal manufacturers, producers and importers with halal food logistics.
However, he lamented that despite halal facilities having been up and running for the last two years, they have yet to receive good response from halal industry players.
Furthermore, there were currently only two European logistics service providers who were halal certified.
On an encouraging note, he said the Netherlands was ready to help Malaysia in promoting the halal industry.
"But we still have more things to do before we are ready to enter the European market which has a consumer base of 458 million people," he said.
Port of Rotterdam's area manager for South East Asia & Russia, Captain Kees J Westrate, said. "This target group is increasingly critical and demanding; they want to be certain that halal products they buy are not only of high quality, but also meet all the halal standards and are halal-certified."
Westrate, who attended the dialogue, said halal products were becoming a commercial force, thus providing vast opportunities for Malaysia to lead other Muslim countries.
This was more so with Malaysia's Halal certification issued by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) being globally recognised.
He said Malaysia, though facing an uphill task in carving out a slice of the European halal market, was well-positioned to make an impact in Europe.
Source: Bernama (English)