Halal even by no name: India continues to export meat by Islamic requirements despite gov’t dropping the H word
17 JAN 2021 NEWS SALAAM GATEWAY
The removal of the mention of ‘halal’ earlier this month from India’s red meat manual will not have any impact on the country’s halal meat export, say industry players.
The red meat manual of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has been in use for several years. It is now in its third edition and contains “useful information on various aspects like quality and food safety standards to be followed, chilling, freezing, packaging and labelling requirements, edible offals and other by-products”.
The halal component of the manual that previously read: “animals are slaughtered strictly according to halal method to meet the requirement of Islamic countries”, has now been updated to: “the animals are slaughtered according to the requirement of importing country/importer”.
APEDA has also removed the lines stating that “the animals are slaughtered by halal system under strict vigilance of (a) recognised and registered Islamic body as per the tenets of Islamic Shariyat. The certificate for halal is issued by the representative of registered Islamic body under whose supervision the slaughter is conducted in order to meet the requirement of (the) importing country.”
Despite these changes in the manual, industry sources say the same process will continue even if the word ‘halal’ doesn’t appear in the manual anymore.
“If you talk about exports, it’s not going to affect anything,” Mohammad Rehan Qureshi, CEO of India Frozen Foods, told Salaam Gateway over the phone from Uttar Pradesh, the biggest meat-producing state in India.
Since APEDA hasn’t prohibited producing halal meat, industry players say the country’s slaughterhouses and plants can continue as per the requirements of importing countries, most of which are Islamic nations.
APEDA, which comes under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is responsible for registration, fixing standards and specification and carrying out the inspection of meat and meat products in slaughterhouses and processing plants, among others.
The agency does not supervise whether meats are halal or not. That is the responsibility of importing countries, said Qureshi. “All these countries have their own rules and halal certifying agencies which approve plants in India.”
India’s meat exporters are mandated to have halal supervisors – from the country’s independent halal certifying agencies such as the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust – at their slaughterhouses and meat facilities.
“We can’t clear a shipment to a destination unless we have halal certificates from the trust or have an approval from the importing country,” said Qureshi, adding that this practice remains as is.
India’s meat trade is predominantly run by Muslims and a large section of the country’s multi-faith meat-eating population has had no issues consuming meat processed through halal methods.
However, in recent times, some Hindu and Sikh groups have voiced discontent against the country’s prevailing meat processing and distribution practice, which they allege promote only halal meat and drive out other communities from this trade.
“[The word ‘halal’] has been removed now on the insistence of some anti-halal lobby, especially those who by their religion are commanded to consume meat slaughtered as per their ritual of cutting the neck in one go (jhatka),” said Niaz Ahmed Farooqui, the secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, a halal certifying agency. Farooqui is referring to jhatka, which is the Hindi term to refer to animals that are not slaughtered according to Islamic requirements but similarly uses one swift cut of the neck.
APEDA did not respond to Salaam Gateway’s requests for comment via email. Its official Twitter handle responded to a tweet criticising it for “not only economically promoting a particular community but also imposing that community’s religious dictates on Indian society” by clarifying that “there is no condition by Govt. of India that only halal meat to be exported. It is the requirement of majority of importing countries/importers. Halal certification agencies are accredited directly by respective importing countries. No Govt agency has any role in this.”
“Earlier, it [the wordings of the manual] used to give an impression that APEDA-approved plants must produce meat only with the halal method which was objected by some groups in India since India is a secular country and it should not restrict only to one community,” Dr. SK Ranjhan, the co-author of the original manual who made the changes, told Salaam Gateway.
He said that this change will give a chance to other plants to be registered with APEDA that don’t want to produce meat as per the halal method.
NO IMPACT ON EXPORTS
Buffalo meat is India’s second-biggest exporting commodity after Basmati rice, with a share of around 20% of total export in value terms. India exported 1.15 million metric tons of buffalo meat worth $3.17 billion in the financial year 2019-20. In the current fiscal for which data is available for April to November 2020, India exported 705,175 metric tons of buffalo meat worth $2.08 billion.
APEDA’s move has no significance for the country’s meat export industry as India has been exporting mostly halal meat to all importing countries –regardless of their requirement of halal or not.
The practice is expected to continue as it is.
Six of India’s top ten buffalo meat importing countries were Islamic nations: Malaysia ($375 million), Egypt ($334 million), Indonesia ($230 million), Iraq ($169 million), Saudi Arabia ($122 million), and the UAE ($84 million) being the key markets in 2019-20.
With $1.058 billion worth of sale in last fiscal, Vietnam is India’s biggest buffalo meat importing country, contributing over 30% of its total export in value terms in 2019-20. Most of this is transported to China. Other key non-Islamic countries in the top 10 include Hong Kong (most end up in China), Myanmar and the Philippines.
While non-Islamic countries, for example, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong don’t require halal, industry players say their preference is still halal. “Scientifically, you know halal meat has several good benefits and reduces the chances of any diseases. So, for them, if it’s halal, it’s good; and if it’s not halal, they don’t care about it,” said Qureshi of India Frozen Foods.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, which supervises almost all meat exporting plants in India, says the country doesn’t export any non-halal slaughtered meat.
“That’s because countries that do not have a requirement of halal meat are also importing halal meat since they have no problem in importing or consuming halal meat,” said Farooqui.
NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON EXPORTS, CERTIFICATION
Farooqui doesn’t believe the change in the red meat manual will significantly impact India’s meat export or current halal certification process.
“Though there will be no obligation now on exporters to process halal meat only for export, they will have to comply with the requirements of the importing countries,” said Farooqui.
Dr. Ranjhan agrees that this move will not affect India’s halal meat exports. He spent many years as a director with major meat exporting companies and currently works as an independent consultant and technical advisor to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
“If the importing countries want Indian plants to produce meat as per the Islamic Shariah, the animals will continue to be slaughtered according to the halal method,” he said.
AUTHENTICITY OF HALAL
Will this recent move create concerns among Islamic importing countries about the authenticity of halal meat, especially if an exporter also processes non-halal meat in the same plant?
Farooqui pointed out that the meat should be produced in a dedicated halal slaughterhouse as is the requirement of most of the international halal authorities, including Malaysia’s JAKIM, Indonesia’s BPJPH, UAE’s EIAC, Saudi Arabia’s SFDA, and Egypt’s authority.
“Almost all the slaughterhouses exporting are dedicated halal slaughterhouses and operating as per the halal standard being imposed by the importing countries. They are not allowed to have mixed lines of production,” he said.
India Frozen Foods’ Qureshi said it’s technically not practical or feasible to set-up non-halal meat plant or run two sets of production lines as not all the parts of animals go to one particular country.
“For example, if I am slaughtering an animal, I am not sending all the parts of that animal to China only. Technically, I have to do halal only because I will be sending some parts to Islamic countries,” he said, adding that if the animal is halal, he can sell the meats to all the countries.
(Reporting by Syed Ameen Kader; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim email@example.com)
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