Brunei Darussalam: Halal innovations

As an increasingly significant player in the rapidly expanding global halal market, Brunei is laying the groundwork for further industry growth by extending its reach across Asia and Latin America, while also encouraging product innovation.

The Sultanate has benefitted from its position as one of the early entrants in the international halal market, which today supplies approximately 1.8bn people worldwide and is estimated to be worth $2.3trn. Having launched the Brunei Halal brand in 2010, the Sultanate has since strengthened its reputation by becoming one of the few countries outside of the Middle East to establish an internationally recognised certifying body for the industry.

In April, Romleah Juliet P Ocampo, a representative from the Philippine’s Centre for International Trade Expositions and Missions, described Brunei Darussalam’s halal standards as the “highest in the world”. The Sultanate’s halal brand now looks to be generating significant interest among emerging players, including non-Muslim countries, who are keen to gain a share of market growth.

Philippine President Benigno S Aquino III used an official visit to Brunei in late September to highlight the country’s interest in exploring opportunities for setting up joint ventures in the halal food industry. Local media reported in April that a number of Thai firms have also headed to Brunei this year to discuss possible partnerships in sugar refinery and halal food production initiatives.

Thailand’s ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Apichart Phetcharatana, told media that collaborative ventures would benefit both countries. “We can promote the Brunei Halal Brand to the world and we can use Thai experts to assist Brunei,” he said.

Other countries further afield are also in talks with Brunei, including South Korea, which is eyeing the potential of halal cosmetic products, and Mexico, which plans to send entrepreneurs to the Sultanate later this year to discuss the potential for halal food production in the Latin American country.

While interest from around the world bodes well for Brunei’s plans to develop its halal brand, new players in the market, particularly in major growth areas such as China, India and Europe, are likely to challenge the Sultanate for its position as industry leader.

Aware of mounting competition, Brunei Halal is looking to expand its operations by setting up new production centres to run alongside its manufacturing bases in Malaysia, Spain and the UK. The firm has also introduced a range of new products in June.

“There has been considerable progress for the brand,” a company representative told local media. “For one, our product range has grown in numbers and categories with new markets within and beyond the region also being explored as we continue procuring products.”

The Brunei Agro-Technology Park (BATP) is likely to be instrumental in driving industry growth by providing local manufacturers with modern facilities they need to stay globally competitive. The park will cover 50 ha in Kampung Tungku, with the first phase earmarked for completion in 2015.

Feby Latip, chief executive officer of Brunei Wafirah Holdings which manages the Brunei Halal brand, told The Brunei Times in August that he expected the facility to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tackle a range of challenges, from developing and exporting products to obtaining their halal certification. “The incubators within the park would help (…) SMEs with that,” he said.

The BATP will also have a strong focus on research and development, which could prove key to the Sultanate’s plans to diversify away from a reliance on oil and gas revenues, particularly in newly emerging segments such as halal pharmaceuticals.

Last year, Canadian firm Viva Pharmaceuticals invested $26m in the Sultanate to create a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical facility, buoyed by confidence that the halal pharmaceuticals sector would match the industry’s success in food, cosmetics, sharia-compliant health care and financial and investment products.

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