"The number of Halal certificated companies in Greece is growing" - EXCLUSIVE
Halal businesses in Southeast Europe have the potential to grow but for now, only Greece is taking advantage of this opportunity, declared Thomas Vassaras, CEO, Greekexports and official representative of Halal Certification Services GmbH in Southeast Europe. His company is providing services for clients in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Albania, Fyrom and Romania ranging from Export Coaching schemes, Market Campaign schemes, Halal and Kosher certification in food, cosmetics and hotels.
"In the area where I am in charge, Southeast Europe, we see that in some countries, Greece for example, in the last few years, companies have manifested interest for this certification. The reason is not that they want to export to Arabic countries but they export to European countries and as soon the Muslim population grows in these countries retailers will ask for halal certification. Regarding the Romanian food industry, various companies that are halal certified from local certification bodies or European certification bodies but there are not as many companies yet", explains Mr Vassaras.
The cost issue
With thousands of halal bodies operating all over the world, certification for this type of business can prove to be costly, especially if you don't target the right market for your company. But, if you are wise enough to seek the right clients the certification cost may not sound like a big burden.
"The cost depends on the company's profile. If you are a meat producer it is more expensive than for an olive oil producer or a sunflower oil producer. Also, it depends on the size of the company, in terms of how many production sites does it have. Each production site has to go to the procedure of auditing both in documents and in the area itself. In some cases it may look inexpensive, in others the cost may go higher, depending exactly on what the company is doing. On the other hand, the cost is small when you try to compare it with the advantage you get if you attract the right clients. For example, Europe is a very big growing market for halal food nowadays. Many businessmen are asking about halal certification because a German importer, a British importer or a French company has asked for it," mentioned Thomas Vassaras.
Of course, some of the newcomers in the halal market can take advantage of the differences existing in the halal slaughter or kosher slaughter regulation of each European country in order to better serve their clients. Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Belgium's northern Flemish region have banned the ritual slaughter. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Portugal, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria do not have high regulation on ritual slaughter as the rest of European countries have.
"The current European regulation on halal slaughter is trying to find a balance between two things: one is the animal welfare issue and the other is the right of minorities to find products that are good for them. There is a general understanding that there should be a ritual slaughter but each country has the right to implement this in its own way.
When it comes to halal, though, there is a general misconception. Halal slaughter is not necessarily without stunning. Is not that different from the conventional stunning that happens in Europe, especially for the smaller animals, which are stunned with electrical stunning devices," added Mr Vassaras.
According to a Grand View Research report issued last year, the expenditures on halal food in the Muslim regions will increase to $2.6 trillion by 2020, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East & African region leading the top of the areas which will contribute to the global food market's growth.
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