Halaal Quest had the honour to talk to Mr. Damir Alihodžić, current director of the Halal certification Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and discuss the path this country has taken in developing the halal industry within the country but also in the whole EU region. Read our talk below and find out how Bosnia has risen from a complete non-halal industry to an emerging Halal industry leader in Europe within 10 years’ time!
HQ: When you started the Agency not many people knew of the term Halal, what are your tips, trick and suggestions on how to raise awareness and build the Halal Industry?
Mr. Damir: Before 2006, process of halal certification has been conducted by the Islamic Community in B&H, which were issuing conformation letters for single lots of products or single products as halal. At that time halal certification was conducted based on the knowledge about halal of individual person/s. Global approach to halal certification has pushed towards a more organized and reliable system of halal certification which would be acceptable for companies, individuals and other actors. Thus the agency was formed!
Agency for Halal Quality Certification is established in 2006, by the Islamic Community in B&H, for the purpose of halal certification of products and services which show interest to fulfill needs of the halal consumers. The Agency has developed Halal standards, which were registered in 2007 at the Governmental Institute for Standardization B&H, under name BAS 1049:2007 Halal foods, requirements and measures.
In the activities of the Expert Group for Standards of Organization of Islamic Conference on the development and establishment of a unified international Halal standard and the process of halal certification and accreditation, Halal standard BAS 1049:2007 was used as the working background and reference document.
Based on the changes in the global halal industry, concerning the process of certification, the Agency has revised it’s Halal Standards in cooperation with the Governmental Institute for Standardization B&H, in order for harmonization with the OIC Halal standard. In 2010, the Agency has registered second edition of Halal Standard BAS 1049:2010. Following the trends in global halal industry, in 2018, the Agency has completed the process of accreditation by the Emirate International Accreditation Centre in Dubai, UAE.
Furthermore, in the same year the Agency has received recognition by JAKIM Malaysia. With these achievements, the Agency for Halal Quality Certification has maintained the continuity of an internationally recognized certification body and has confirmed that it meets all the required competencies defined by the new international standards for halal certification.
With the establishment of the Agency, an institution whose mission is halal certification, education and research, new dimension of halal certification has started in the Bosnian Halal market. The Agency inaugurated systematic approach to the process of Halal certification, starting with education (about halal, the requirements of Halal standards, Halal audit, etc.); than implementation of the requirements of Halal Standards in companies, while at the end is Halal certification audit, issuing Halal Certificate and monitoring of the system (audit inspections and laboratory analysis).
Development of unique rules, regulations and requirements of Halal standards for all companies (regardless of it’s size and scope of work) has built a fundamental background for development of a well recognized halal market. The Halal Trade Mark of the Agency was registered at the Institute for Intellectual Property of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2007, enabling the Agency, the halal products and manufacturers’ a recognizable stamp of quality worldwide.
An important segment in our development was and is promotion. The Agency through its activities, internal and public promotes halal, halal companies, products and services to different publics without favoring any of its clients. In order to create awareness about halal, we have created a media plan of promotion which consisted of common promotional activities such as different marketing materials, TV appearances, specialized interviews in media, public presentation, workshops, etc. We were also present at different exhibitions, where through interaction with people we promoted our activities. Our internet site played a major role, which we used to inform the public on our activities, halal certified producers and products. Today, we also use social media for sharing and promoting.
In 2016 we launched an application for mobile devices – Halal Bazar. Halal Bazar is an application for mobile devices that contains information about halal certified products, services and companies from the scope of the Agency for Halal Quality Certification. Once installed, the application can work without the internet, and the data on new products can be downloaded manually or automatically, as it suits the user. For product reviews, users can search the Halal Certified Products database, or activate the Barcode Scan option and get information on whether the halal product is certified or not. If the product is halal certified users receive basic information about the product, it’s identity and the manufacturer’s information. The application also contains a list of touristic and catering facilities that provide halal services for their guests.
HQ: How much would you say has the Halal Industry progressed in Bosnia and EU region since the Halal certification Agency B&H has been established? Is there a significant rise of consumer demand for Halal products and services?
Mr. Damir: Halal industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina is continually developing. In percentage terms, the annual rate of increase in the number of certified companies and products is around 20%. If we compare numbers after 13 years of halal certification, the progress is well seen. More than 8000 variety halal products from over 100 companies are daily offered to consumers in the markets. Position of demand and supply is functioning adequately. Companies implement Halal standards in production facilities and consumers reward them with loyalty. At the beginning, halal certification was merely focused on products, mostly different range of meat products. Several years back, we opened a new chapter in halal certification with halal certification of hotels, restaurants, cafes and tour operators. Consumers are more aware and positive feedback is present on similar activities.
HQ: The Halal Food and Beverage industry in Bosnia are the most developed, what about other industries (Such as Halal Tourism, Islamic Finance and Banking, Insurance Policies, IT and Fintech, Supply Chain) How advanced are these industries and do you see potential for growth and perhaps opportunities for investment in these segments?
Mr. Damir: Besides halal food and beverage industry, Bosnia and Herzegovina has great opportunities for the development of other halal products and services, especially in the field of tourism and pharmaceutical industries. One of the fastest trends in the world is halal cosmetics and it represents a good ground for developing a business success. The sector of tourism is progressing each year and Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming more attractive as a halal tourist destination. Tourists from Middle East, Turkey, Malaysia and other countries are visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, investments in touristic facilities are becoming more attractive for foreign investors. We believe, that organized and systematic approach in this sector can be potential for growth.
HQ: What are some of the major challenges that the Halal Industry in this region is facing? Any suggestions on how to overcome it, can Malaysia be of help to tackle those issues?
Mr. Damir: During the past fifteen years there has been a rapid development of the halal industry in the world. Numerous of halal certification bodies were formed and established. For example, in Russia two years ago, there were only two certification bodies and now there are more than forty.
Today, in the world, there are about 300 halal certification bodies. Among these there is a number of bodies which are not competent for halal certification. Moreover, number of certification bodies belong to non-Muslim which is a great issue. This sudden growth of halal certification bodies did not follow the development of new unique certification and accreditation standards, procedures and halal certification schemes. For these reasons, it is understandable, there was a lack of trust among certification bodies, which resulted that particular halal certification authorities in Islamic countries such as the UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, etc. engage in reviewing the halal certificates and certification bodies.
Thus, a global system that implies that the certification body is accredited or recognised by one of these halal authorities should be implemented to ease this issue, certificates should then be recognized in all the other countries without additional verifications. This would greatly help the certification bodies, the mutual trust would increase and fluctuation of halal products would be easier. Essentially, these are global problems of the halal industry today, which reflect our region and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Malaysia as one of the pioneers in the halal standardization, and thus the leader in halal could help with the unification of regulations, the conclusion of international agreements on the uniqueness of halal worldwide.
HQ: What are the future plans for growth of the Halal Industry in Bosnia? Where do you see the highest potential for development, improvement and investment?
Mr. Damir: In addition to the regular activities of halal certification, control and supervision of halal companies, the Agency will work on the realization of several projects, including the production and publication of manuals and books on halal, and the project of establishing own scientific and research centre that would involve leading domestic and foreign experts from various scientific fields of study. This centre will have access to all current and relevant scientific knowledge, and the resources needed to conduct analyses and testing with the aim of improving the quality of halal products. We believe that here in Bosnia and Herzegovina we have enough will and enthusiasm to deal with the serious doctrine of the meaning of halal and that this will bring a great deal of goodness to our halal industry and our country. We are pleased that we have provided support to some important institutions, as well as several leading world experts dedicated to the comparative research of the halal industry.
HQ: Bosnia as the main Halal Hub for the European Halal Market – do you agree with this statement, do you see Bosnia as the leader in the Halal industries in Europe and a pathway for producers and services to enter the EU market through collaborations with Bosnia?
Mr. Damir: Yes, I agree. Why not? As you know, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a good location in terms of geography, commercial crossroads, but also representing cultural and religious bridge between east and west. Our diversity of nationalities, cultures and religions has resulted with openness and understanding of others and different. Beside some local political debates, mentioned facts represent some of major advantages from business perspectives. To prove this we can just compare it with some of the EU economies banning regulations necessary for transparent of Halal goods, or cases from Muslim countries where Halal certification boards couldn’t even been registered since national regulation don’t recognize such activities.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina we have a set of regulations for Halal, covering most important areas from registered Halal standards, recognized professional Halal certification body, and Halal regulations for labelling, animal welfare, consumer protection etc. Trough different initiatives, committees and projects Halal Agency officially cooperates with the respective institutions from educational, governmental, non-governmental and business sector.
HQ: Any closing remarks on the industry development? Collaborations between Malaysia and Bosnia, and what aspect of our countries’ relations needs improving to further develop this industry in both Malaysia and Bosnia?
Mr. Damir: Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malaysia are very friendly countries, especially since the nineties. Apart from the area of Halal, Malaysia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have cooperated on a number of other projects. The Agency for Halal Quality Certification as authorized Halal authority in Bosnia and Herzegovina has mutual recognition with JAKIM in Malaysia, which created the preconditions for the establishment of business relations between the two countries.
In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a European country with a majority Muslim population, which can be an excellent destination for opening of production companies that would export and market their products all over Europe. This is particularly important due to the lack of halal certified products in EU countries. .
In order to explore Halal consumers behaviour and awareness, the Agency conducted a research in Bosnia, and for example we realized that in area of Halal labelling 50,6% of consumers are demanding, 24,4% supporting, 10,8% see as non-important, 8,0% doesn’t preferred but isn’t against, and just 2,0% are against Halal labelling. The most important fact is that all over the region people do understand the basic meaning of Halal, and don’t see it as a threat but as a business opportunity and satisfaction for consumers locally and internationally.
HalaalQuest would like to thank Mr. Damir Alihodžić for devoting his time and effort in providing extensive answers and insights into the Halal Industry growth and trends, in Bosnia, as well as in Europe.
Copyright by HalaalQuest 2019 | For halaalquest.com Nesiba Smajic