KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is targeting the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as an opportunity to increase its exports of halal food to the global market.
On Thursday, a three-day exhibition titled “Malaysia to Japan for 2020 Olympics” was launched in Kuala Lumpur to secure contracts worth up to $300 million supplying halal products for the games next year.
Keith Wong, a member of the Tokyo Olympics Halal Food Standards Committee, told Arab News: “Malaysia sees the Olympic Games as the stepping stone to the global market. Japan is not just one of the largest markets in the world, but also represents quality. Many companies want to be associated with that.”
More than 300 local businesses will display halal-certified food products and services, from adapted Japanese dishes to cosmetics and health products. Islamic financial service providers and transportation firms specializing in maintaining halal standards through supply chains also attended the event.
International demand for halal produce has grown exponentially in recent years, due not only to increasing demand from expanding Muslim populations, but also non-Muslim consumers of high-quality products, reassured by the standards halal goods must meet.
Wong said that, though the Muslim population in Japan is small, the Tokyo Olympics could see 5 million Muslim tourists visit the country.
However, for any effort to expand in Japan to succeed, it was important for halal producers to see the Olympics not as a one-off opportunity, but a chance to break new ground for the long-term.
“If you want to go in, you have to meet Japanese standards,” he said. “The Japanese love curry from Nepal and Bangladesh, and never think of it as ‘halal curry.’ Why can’t Malaysian food be the same?”
Though a Muslim-majority nation, Malaysia lags behind Buddhist-majority Thailand as Southeast Asia’s largest halal exporter. This, Wong believes, is because of Bangkok’s more successful export strategy, that Malaysia has yet to emulate.
“Thailand trains its chefs well, and sends them all over the world. As a result, Thai food is very popular. Malaysia’s export strategy is too vague and not yet detailed enough,” he said.
The Malaysian government, though, hope the exhibition, also attended by large Japanese firms such as Take-One Co. Ltd., which operates FamilyMart, Ohga Pharmacy and Hayabusa International, could generate $12 million in sales over the three-day session.