Thailand capitalises on halal market amid renewed Saudi ties


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Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thailand and Saudi Arabia’s reestablishment of diplomatic ties in 2022, after a three-decade hiatus, has presented the Land of Smiles with fresh avenues to capitalise on its halal products’ demand in the Middle Eastern markets.

The global Muslim population, approximately 2 billion, is projected to constitute 25% of the total populace by 2030. Thaweelap Rittapirom, the President of the Islamic Bank of Thailand (IBank), emphasised the necessity for products in Muslim-majority nations to have halal certification.

The global halal food market is anticipated to exceed US$2 trillion by 2027, and Thailand’s share of this market is around US$300 billion. Despite having a minority Muslim populace, Thailand possesses considerable potential to emerge as a regional hub for halal food and beverage production.

Thaweelap stressed that entrepreneurs need to stay abreast of the sector’s latest trends and developments to cater to the dynamic demands of the rapidly growing consumer base, thereby gaining a stronghold in this intensely competitive market.

When considering halal, most people envision it as being limited to food. However, according to Islamic teachings, halal encompasses every aspect of a Muslim’s daily life such as clothing, working conditions, and finance.

Practising Muslims navigate between the boundaries of halal, the Arabic word for permissible, and haram, Arabic for forbidden. The definitions of what is deemed halal or haram are based on the principles outlined in the Koran, emphasising cleanliness and purity across the value chain from production to distribution and consumption.

Halal tourism

Thailand, apart from opportunities in food exports, also has the potential for halal tourism as the country is attracting more Muslim tourists. Currently, Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of halal food products, with Thailand ranking third in Asia after Indonesia and Malaysia, Thaweelap said.

“I think Thailand needs to truly understand the halal market and its evolving needs, implementing industrial policies that cater to the dynamic demands of this expanding consumer base, as well as continued government support.”

Thailand’s halal-certified products and services are considered a commercial passport to enter the markets of Islamic countries. However, Thailand needs to elevate its halal certification as rivals, Malaysia and Indonesia, raise their standards.

Saudi Arabia, Thailand’s second-largest export market in the Middle East, possesses immense growth potential with an annual income of US$20,000 per person and a population of 37.4 million. The trade value between the two nations increased by 40% in 2022 following the restoration of diplomatic ties, reported Bangkok Post.

Understanding the Saudi Arabian market requires reading its Vision 2030 document that outlines the country’s strategy to diversify its economy, reduce dependence on oil revenue, attract foreign direct investment, drive economic growth, and expand knowledge of new technologies.

Thailand’s certification is becoming an important export standard to tap into the halal market. With the halal market becoming increasingly competitive over the past five years, entrepreneurs must distinguish themselves by improving the implementation of halal standards.

Financial institutions like IBank are ready to provide loans to entrepreneurs seeking to manufacture by halal standards. On July 15 last year, IBank collaborated with the Export-Import Bank of Thailand to implement a halal entrepreneur exporter programme and held a joint seminar. The seminar provided an opportunity for participants to share insights regarding the opportunities and challenges for Thai products entering halal markets.

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