With rice and biryani, Malaysia aims for halal Olympic gold

Malaysia is the only country to have reached a halal cooperation deal with Tokyo for the Games. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 February 2020

With rice and biryani, Malaysia aims for halal Olympic gold

  • The value of the global halal market is projected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2023, nearly double 2017 levels

KUALA LUMPUR: A small factory in Malaysia’s capital is preparing thousands of ready-to-eat halal meals, from fried rice to chicken biryani, to be shipped off to Japan for 2020’s biggest sporting event.

Food firms from Muslim-majority Malaysia, are expected to be big winners from a rush of Muslim travelers to Japan for the Olympics and Paralympic Games, from late July to September.

“It’s a huge platform and opportunity for us,” said Ahmad Husaini Hassan, boss of the MyChef company making the meals in Kuala Lumpur. “Our intention is not to go in and out. We’ve to go in and stay for the long term.”

Malaysia wants to use the Games as a springboard to boost halal exports, which include food and cosmetics, by about a fifth to $12 billion this year. It exported halal goods worth $604 million to Japan in 2018, 90 percent of it food and food ingredients.

Malaysia is the only country to have reached a halal cooperation deal with Tokyo for the Games.

MyChef aims to triple its revenue to 4.5 million ringgit ($1 million) this year. It is in talks with Japanese retailer Aeon to jointly develop a line of ready-to-eat halal meals and snacks, Ahmad Husaini said.

Malaysia’s halal trade has lagged behind non-Muslim nations such as the US, China and Brazil. The value of the global halal market is projected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2023, nearly double 2017 levels, according to Dublin-based data firm Research and Markets.

Malaysia’s government has set an ambitious target of selling as much as $300 million worth of halal food and products to Muslims and non-Muslims around the Games.

It has secured space on the sidelines to host a “Malaysia Street 2020” promotion, which will offer opportunities to sell food and for firms to meet Japanese buyers and distributors.

“We have a lot to learn from Malaysian authorities and in return, Malaysian companies have more chances to expand their business,” said Hideto Nakajima, economic counsellor at the Japanese embassy in Malaysia.

The number of tourists to Japan from Southeast Asia, the region with the world’s biggest Muslim population, has jumped in recent years thanks to relaxed visa rules.

As Japan looks to draw a record 40 million tourists this year, Malaysia estimates 8 million of them will be Muslim.

For HQC Commerce, among four firms chosen to lead Malaysia’s halal push in Japan, the Olympics is a “stepping stone” for bigger things.

“We know that during the Olympics the demand will be highest, so this is the time for us to promote Malaysian products,” said CEO Khairul Shahril Hamzah.


$8bn blow to Erdogan as investors flee Turkey

Updated 09 July 2020

$8bn blow to Erdogan as investors flee Turkey

  • Overseas holdings in Istanbul stock exchange are at lowest in 16 years

ANKARA: Foreign capital is flooding out of Turkey in a massive vote of no confidence in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s economic competence.
Overseas investors have withdrawn nearly $8 billion from Turkish stocks since January, according to Central Bank statistics, reducing foreign investment in the Istanbul stock exchange from $32.3 billion to $24.4 billion.
As recently as 2013, the figure was $82 billion, and foreign investors now own less than 50 percent of stocks for the first time in 16 years.
“Foreign investment has left Turkey for several reasons, both internal and external,” Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, told Arab News.
“Externally, investors fled riskier assets like emerging markets during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those flows are returning, but investors are being much more discerning and Turkey does not seem so attractive.”
In terms of internal factors, Thin said that Turkish policymakers had made it hard for foreign investors to transact in Turkey. “This includes real money clients, not just speculative.
“By implementing ad hoc measures to try and limit speculative activity, Turkey has made it hard for real money as well. Besides these problems, Turkey’s fundamentals remain poor compared to much of the emerging markets.”
Erdogan allies claim international players are manipulating the Istanbul stock exchange through automated trading, and have demanded action to make it difficult for them to trade in Turkish assets.
Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Credit Suisse were banned this month from short-selling stocks for up to three months, and this year local lenders were briefly banned by the banking regulator from trading in Turkish lira with Citigroup, BNP Paribas and UBS
JPMorgan was investigated by Turkish authorities last year after the bank published a report that advised its clients to short sell the Turkish lira.
MSCI, the provider of research-based indexes and analytics, warned last month that it may relegate Turkey from emerging market status to frontier-market status because of bans on short selling and stock lending.
With the market becoming less transparent, overseas fund managers, especially with short-term portfolios, are unenthusiastic about the Turkish market and are becoming more concerned about any forthcoming introduction of other liquidity restrictions.
The exodus of foreign capital is likely to undermine Turkey’s drive for economic growth, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when employment and investment levels have gone down, with the Turkish lira facing serious volatility.