Brunei has credentials for Halal Branding
By Sonia K.

Brunei has very strong credentials to provide affordable Halal products and services, as the way of life here is deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam. Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said this when she graced yesterday's opening ceremony of the 4th International Halal Market Conference held in conjunction with the International Halal Products Expo 2009 at ICC.

"First (and foremost), Halal compliance is an essential part of our commitment to fulfil Fardhu Kifayah, a collective responsibility," Her Royal Highness said during her sabda (keynote speech) at the conference where she shared how the sustainable development of the Halal sector has a three-fold importance for Brunei.

The theme for this year's conference is 'Halal - An Engine if Growth and Opportunity'. Since Brunei launched the Brunei Halal Brand two years ago, it has developed a reputation for meeting high quality and stringent Halal compliance.

"We are constantly improving the legal, and regulatory infrastructure of our food processing industry in order to guarantee our products are of an internationally accepted standard," HRH Princess Hjh Masna added.

Of secondary importance are Brunei's efforts to broaden its economic base and hence the country's deep commitment to develop the Halal sector, she said. This, she added, would serve as a strong foundation to supplement Brunei's traditional source of revenue from oil and gas. Apart from this sector, Brunei is focussing on two other inter-related areas, namely Islamic Finance and Eco-tourism.

The global Halal market is estimated to be around US$2 trillion a year and the Halal food market alone is about US$630 billion, HRH Princess Hajah Masna told the conference participants.

"This market will only grow bigger, as the demand for Halal products stretches across the globe, reaching a cross-section of consumers, both Muslim and non-Muslim. The Halal industry provides huge potential in many areas to tap into, such as food, Islamic finance, eco-tourism, pharmaceutical products, and various other forms of goods, and services that are Syariah-compliant," the Ambassador-at-Large said.

On the third factor for sustainable development of the Halal sector, she said, it can further promote Brunei's SMEs, which make up 90 per cent of the business community in Brunei.

His Majesty's Government, through the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Brunei Economic Development Board, other relevant ministries and agencies, has already started to address ways to support the SMEs. Focus has been on capacity-building, access to funding and export markets, as well as development of a national standard and quality regime for food, HRH said.

She said Brunei strives to provide a quality environment for entrepreneurial excellence, to help businesses "go global". The launching of the Commercial Entity at the International Halal Products Expo here two days ago, according to HRH, is one fine example of such efforts.

She also encouraged the private sector, especially the new generation of entrepreneurs, to come forward, be proactive, nurture bold initiatives and bright new ideas to develop this lucrative Halal industry.

"We have initiated projects to build an Agro-Technology Park (see page 3) and a Halal science centre. I am pleased our country is also initiating quality assured standards and guidelines for healthcare, and pharmaceutical products," she added.

As producers and suppliers for this market, HRH said, "We must ensure we continue to produce products and services that are not only Halal compliant, but competitive and sustainable."

At a time when consumer confidence in conventional banking practices has been shaken in the current financial turmoil, Brunei should harness Islamic finance as a more secure alternative.

HRH Princess Hajah Masna said, "This could pave the way for companies to gradually embrace and adopt an Islamic business model through Islamic best practices in day-to-day transactions."

Earlier, in a welcoming address by the Conference's Chairman Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Hamid bin Haji Jaafar, the Permanent Secretary at MIPR said this year's conference aims to provide conference content relevant to the global Halal market stakeholders, content that addresses current issues in this constantly changing new market and to showcase Brunei's achievements within the Halal Market.

Participants will hear ideas on the next phase in the evolution of the Halal market, about marketing and branding as well as corporate philosophy and structure, and the application of Awqaf principles in modern business.

"We will hear about the latest developments in Halal standards and guidelines, in both the food and pharmaceutical sectors, including the latest initiatives for the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)," Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Hamid said.

He also touched on the new Agri-Tech Park being in its first phase of construction and how it will soon materialise as the focal point of the Halal sector initiatives. - Borneo Bulletin (2nd August 2009)