Malaysia eyes 2020 Olympic Games to boost halal exports to Japan

Malaysia hopes to ride on next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo to boost its food exports to Japan. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 26 January 2019

Malaysia eyes 2020 Olympic Games to boost halal exports to Japan

  • A three-day exhibition was launched in Kuala Lumpur last week to secure contracts to supply halal products for the games next year
  • Though a Muslim-majority nation, Malaysia lags behind Buddhist-majority Thailand as Southeast Asia’s largest halal exporter

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.


Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

Updated 14 November 2019

Anti-government protesters block roads in Pakistan as unrest mounts

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks
  • Firebrand cleric leading the protests called for nationwide demonstrations

ISLAMABAD: Anti-government protesters in Pakistan blocked major roads and highways across the country on Thursday in a bid to force Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.
The demonstrators — led by the leader of opposition party Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman — have taken to the streets as the start of their “Plan B” to topple the government and ensure a general election after failing to push Khan out through a fortnight-long sit-in in Islamabad, which ended on Wednesday.
That same day, Rehman told his party workers to spread their protests to other parts of the country.
“This protest will continue not for a day but for a month, if our leadership instructs,” said JUI-F Secretary-General, Maulana Nasir Mehmood, to a group of protesters who blocked the country’s main Karakoram Highway — an important trade route between Pakistan and China that also connects the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province with its northern areas.
The JUI-F protesters also blocked other key routes in KP and a major highway connecting the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan. The party’s Balochistan chapter also announced its intention to block the highway connecting Pakistan to neighboring Iran.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators joined the sit-in in Islamabad on Oct. 31 and camped there for about two weeks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation and fresh polls in the country following allegations of electoral fraud last year and the mismanagement of Pakistan’s economy. The government denies both charges.
Rehman is a veteran politician who was a member of the National Assembly for 20 years. He enjoys support in religious circles across the country. His party has yet to share a detailed plan regarding which roads will be closed when, or how long this new phase of protests will continue.
The JUI-F and other opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on the anger and frustration of the public against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ruling party, which came to power last year promising 10 million new jobs for the youth, 5 million low-cost houses, and economic reforms to benefit the middle class.
Since then, Pakistan’s economy has nosedived, witnessing double-digit inflation and rampant unemployment. The government signed a $6-billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stabilized the deteriorating economy, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman ‘Plan B’ will fail like his ‘Plan A,’” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, said in a statement to the press.