SARAJEVO - Bosnia hopes that its geographic position will help it increase exports of its halal certified food products to European markets, where the number of Muslims has grown.
The Balkan country, half of whose population is Muslim, has become a regional hub for halal products since it set up one of Europe's first agencies for halal quality certification in 2006.
Bosnian banks, food producers and hoteliers have adopted halal standards to tap a fast-growing market thanks to an influx of Gulf tourists and growing trade with the Arab world.
"The European halal market is especially important because not many products there have been certified as halal while there is a demand for them with many Muslims living in Europe," Damir Alihodzic, director of Bosnia's Agency for Halal Quality Certification, told Reuters on Friday.
The market for halal food, which spans 1.9 billion consumers and was worth $1.27 trillion in 2021, is forecast to reach $1.67 trillion by 2025, the 2022 Global Islamic Economy report said. There is no exact data for the number of Muslims in Europe.
Halal certification confirms that a product was manufactured in keeping with Islam's Sharia law. It must not contain traces of pork, alcohol or blood, and must be made on factory lines free of contamination risk, including from cleaning.
Alihodzic said his agency has so far certified 110 local companies as halal, of which 80% are food producers. The industry, which employs about 10,000 people, records annual growth of between 15%-20%, with about 7,000 products certified as halal and exports to countries across the world.
"Our producers should seize a chance offered by the demand in Europe," he said on the sidelines of the Sarajevo Halal Fair.
Abdel Halim Abdin of Jordan's Chamber of Industry said that Bosnia had "a big responsibility to spread halal to Europe" because it was at the centre of the continent.
($1= 1.806 Bosnian marka)
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Alexander Smith)