A temporary halal certification centre should be set up immediately to help Bahraini food traders export their products to Saudi Arabia until a fully-fledged facility is opened, according to an official.
This follows new rules, which will come into effect next month, announced by Saudi authorities under which all food imports into the kingdom require three certifications.
These are halal, ISO 22000, and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) certifications.
Bahrain food traders currently get their products halal certified (permitted under the Islamic law) from certain centres before they are exported to Saudi.
However, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) does not recognise these centres.
The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has held meetings with ministries and Saudi officials, and is also in talks with the Indonesian Embassy to set up a Halal Certification Agency in Bahrain.
“Several meeting were held by BCCI teams with Saudi officials and Bahrain’s Health Ministry on the new Saudi regulations,” BCCI food wealth committee chairman Khalid Al Amin told the GDN.
“In my opinion, a government body – which could be either the Health Ministry or the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry – should set up a centre to issue halal certificates for six months to one year.”
This would give time for a new centre to be set up that could be based on the Indonesian model or any other country, he said.
The issue of HACCP and ISO certifications will not be cheap, but Mr Al Amin assured traders that the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry is looking into the matter.
“In the meantime, as this issue is being discussed I would request food traders exporting to Saudi products such as chips, nuts or other items to register with both Saudi and Bahraini authorities.”
This can be done via BCCI’s official portal, https://www.bcci.bh/fs/food/form.php, and fill in a survey related to the health requirements on https://www.sfda.gov.sa.
Mr Al Amin pointed out that the certificate and accreditation will add value to Bahraini exports.
“We are in a transition period right now and once traders meet these requirements, our quality products can be exported worldwide.”
Saudi Arabia is the top importer from Bahrain
Meanwhile, Indonesian Embassy second secretary for economic affairs Hardiyono Kurniawan told the GDN talks are underway between Bahraini officials and the National Islamic Finance Committee (NIFC) to set up a halal certification agency in Manama.
“Indonesia is providing technical expertise to Bahrain to set up a centre that will stamp food products with the halal logo and issue relevant documents,” he said.
“Right now, we are pushing for a semi-government agency that will deal with food and beverages, and eventually cover other sectors.”
Meanwhile, the NIFC director Sutan Emir Hidayat told Salaam Gateway website that Indonesia’s current non-government halal certifier LPPOM-MUI will assist Manama in the project, adding if it gets the green light it will be the fourth overseas representative office for the halal certifier, after China, Taiwan and South Korea.
Bahraini exports to Saudi Arabia account for about 60 per cent of the volume of trade exchange between the two countries.
With a value of BD113 million, Saudi Arabia was ranked the top importer of Bahraini products followed by the UAE with BD71m and Egypt in third place with BD69m during the fourth quarter of last year, according to a report by the Information and eGovernment Authority.
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