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Halal Industry
UAE dates exports jump fivefold in last decade as government continues to support farmers

The UAE exported $235 million worth of dates in 2020, with the fruit accounting for around 60% of the country’s agricultural produce.

 

Sharjah: Date production is booming in the UAE as government initiatives start to trickle down into profits for farmers.

The Al Dhaid Date Festival that took place in the UAE’s emirate of Sharjah in late July is the latest example of the support the government is giving to the food sector. The annual event brought together thousands of farmers, manufacturers, and distributors of agricultural equipment to facilitate deals and exchange of expertise.

“The government does not take fees from us whether for participation in public markets or in festivals,” Ibrahim Shakkah, a Sharjah-based date farmer who participated in the festival, told Salaam Gateway. “Some exhibitions charge us, but they are nominal fees, and this greatly supports us and allows us to showcase our products and compete in the market,” he said.

Shakkah supplies the local market but is working towards becoming a regional supplier. “This is my third time participating in the festival and it has helped me gain many customers; I now sell around 600 kilogrammes of dates per month,” he said.

 

Ibrahim Shakkah, a Sharjah-based date farmer (Heba Hashem).

 

More than 30,000 people visited the sixth edition of Al Dhaid Date Festival, which coincided with the UAE’s date harvesting season that peaks in August and September. The event included competitions for date farmers and awarded cash prizes totalling $272,000 to 145 winners. Some of the most sought after dates among the nearly 160 varieties grown in the country were on display and sold.

Abu Ahmed, a Sharjah-based date palm farmer who was participating for the first time, presented varieties such as the khalas, sukkari, khenaizi, fard, marzipan, sobo al-aroos, al-ambra, nagal, and gash rabie. “Everything was sold out because of its high quality. I sold more than five [metric] tonnes of dates last year and it was mostly through local marketing,” he said.

Commercialising the industry

As much as two-thirds of the UAE’s agricultural land is dedicated to cultivating date palms, and the fruit makes up around 60% of the country’s agricultural produce, according to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. In 2019, the UAE produced 341,246 metric tonnes of dates from an estimated 40 million date palm trees across the country, data from the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre showed. However, most of the date farms in the UAE are small family-run entities that were started about four decades ago as part of a social welfare programme designed to settle the Bedouin. Because of this, many of the date groves in the country are hobby farms and many farmers still grow dates in their backyards.

The government has already taken huge steps to commercialise date cultivation and help farmers increase their productivity and profitability. While Sharjah organises the Al Dhaid Date Festival and the three-month-long dates festival in Souq Al Jubail market, Abu Dhabi has been organising the Liwa Dates Festival for 18 years. The event recently concluded its latest edition, where prizes worth almost $2.2 million were given out to hundreds of winning farmers.

Abu Dhabi also organises the annual Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation as well as the International Date Palm Conference and Abu Dhabi Date Palm Exhibition. This month, yet another annual event – the Liwa Ajman Dates and Honey Festival – will take place on the western coast of the country.

 

Al Dhaid Date Festival coincided with the UAE’s date harvesting season (Heba Hashem).

 

Exports on the rise

However, the most transformational move for date farmers was the establishment of Al Foah in 2005 by the Abu Dhabi government. Now the world's largest dates processing company, it buys products from local independent farmers and markets them domestically and abroad. The company – recently merged into the government-backed food giant Agthia – processes 110,000 metric tonnes of dates every year and exports 90% of this amount.

Last month, Al Foah launched an online marketplace called eZad that will enable farmers to sell off excess produce at home and abroad, helping them deal with their unsold produce and ensuring they get paid quickly. More than 1,200 buyers have signed up on the electronic platform, while over 450 local farmers have registered their interest.

As a result of these efforts, the value of the UAE’s dates exports has multiplied almost fivefold over the last decade, reaching $235 million in 2020 from $48.1 million in 2010, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), which collates international trade data. The UAE now accounts for 12.3% of global dates exports, making the country the third-largest exporter of dates after Tunisia (15.5%) and Saudi Arabia (13.2%). India – the largest importer of dates in the world – was the top importer from the UAE, receiving 33.2% of the country’s dates in 2020, followed by Bangladesh (16.5%) and Morocco (13.7%), OEC data showed.

Agricultural constraints

While date farming in the UAE is a long-standing tradition that locals are proud of, the industry is gaining more importance given the role it plays in the pursuit of food security. As such, there is a growing focus on educating farmers on sustainable techniques that can improve the quality of their crops. At the same time, the UAE government continues to support local farmers, providing subsidies such as agricultural materials at half the price. But several constraints remain.

“One of the biggest challenges faced by farmers in the UAE are the high costs that they incur due to water resources being available in different amounts across the country,” Saeed Dalmouk Alkatbi, a member of the organizing committee at Al Dhaid Date Festival, told Salaam Gateway. “This is besides the problem of agricultural pests and the high cost of pesticides. These issues lead to a discrepancy in the quality and prices of dates from one region to the other within the UAE,” he said.

The government announced this year that it would address this problem by investing AED2.5 billion (almost $681,000) to extend additional water networks to agricultural farms for easy distribution of treated water.

 

Abu Ahmed, a Sharjah-based date farmer (Heba Hashem).

 

“We inherited palm cultivation from our fathers and grandfathers, and we learned many things from them about how to take care of the date palm,” said Abu Ahmed. “At first, we were using primitive methods for drying and storing dates, then we started adopting modern methods. We now use organic fertilisers to fertilise the palm and we try to combat pests from an early stage."

Alkatbi noted that the Al Dhaid Date Festival introduced farmers to several growing techniques that can increase crop yields, most importantly multiplication of seeds, vegetative propagation, and the use of tissue culture technique. The event also showed date farmers how to monitor the date palm periodically to avoid pests such as the red palm weevil. The highly destructive insect is so prevalent that the UAE is investing $1 million to develop genetic methods to control it.

“It’s no secret that there are big challenges in this field, as there are diseases which can strike the palms and negatively affect their production. We manage these problems through pesticides or primary prevention of infection,” said Shakkah. “At the end of the day, the date palm tree is like a child; when you care for it and nurture it, it will give you good yields."

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Halal Industry
UAE’s Pure Harvest considers a number of debt structures to expand to Asia

Pure Harvest Smart Farms’ breakthrough farming system has attracted a diverse mix of investors.

 

Dubai: Abu Dhabi-based Pure Harvest Smart Farms plans to raise funding through a new sukuk (Islamic bond) or conventional bond to support its food-security driven expansion plans, Tariq Sanad, the company’s chief financial officer, told Salaam Gateway.

The agritech firm’s breakthrough farming system that can produce year-round crops in the desert has attracted a diverse mix of investors since its inception in 2016.

“Our strategy is to grow 365 days a year because that is sustainable and serves the food security mandate. During the pandemic and the recent Ukraine-Russia conflict, we have seen that the food system is quite unstable and fragile,” said Sanad.

“These two events highlighted the importance of food security especially in the regions where we operate, which have harsh climates and a dependency on food imports,” he said.

Pure Harvest’s controlled environment agriculture (CEA) system features semi-automated greenhouses that optimise every aspect of the climate, including temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide.

With this technology, the UAE-based company can grow fruits and vegetables using one-seventh of the water used by traditional greenhouse-based farms.

The system represents a much-needed solution for the growing food security challenges worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as it can boost local production in places with restrictive environments.

“We’ve utilised everything we’ve learnt from R&D to ensure we can control the environment inside, which represents a Mediterranean climate that’s conducive to producing fruit and vegetables throughout the year,” said Sanad.

“We cannot continue relying on 80% of our food [in the UAE] coming from outside. We’re solving a problem that we’re seeing right now, way ahead of other regions.”

Starting off with tomatoes six years ago, today, Pure Harvest can now grow three subsets of crops. These include vine crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), and capsicum peppers; all types of leafy greens; and berries.

“With the current pipeline in construction, we’re able to produce about 1,130 tonnes a month with all the facilities we will have in Kuwait, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia,” said Sanad.

“Our strategy is to provide locally for locals; it’s not about producing to export. However, we’re exporting our expertise in terms of our expansion globally.”

The company secured $180 million from global investors in June this year.

“We started with a small semi-commercial facility, in Nahel, Abu Dhabi, and we did all our R&D on it, then we expanded with our investments and raised a sukuk that was able to fund our growth in the UAE and into Saudi Arabia, where we built another six-hectare facility,” said Sanad.

“We’re replicating this now. We’re looking to go into Kuwait, and we’ve acquired another facility in the UAE which we look forward to retrofitting with our technology. We’re also expanding to southeast Asia.”

The latest funding brought the total amount raised by Pure Harvest to-date to $387.1 million. It follows the $50 million raised through sukuk financing last year, led by Dubai’s SHUAA Capital.

He noted that the success of the sukuk was linked to the company’s food security objectives and environmental, social and governance (ESG) elements as well as its location in the Middle East, which is home to a large Islamic financing base.

However, even conventional investors supported this funding. One of the key investors in the sukuk was American investment firm Franklin Templeton, which said at the time that the investment reflected its ESG and Sharia-compliant mandates.

"We are now looking to raise another source of non-dilutive capital, and a Sukuk would be one source we consider,” said Sanad.

"These are big investments as we have ambitious growth plans that we need to fund. We build glass and steel which from a cost-capital perspective are better to fund with non-dilutive debt, of which a sukuk could be a consideration."

As for southeast Asia, the company is eyeing expansion in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Even though southeast Asia is very green, it has a subtropical humid climate, so you won’t see the fruits and vegetables you would see everywhere else, and they have a high dependency on imports,” said Sanad.

“Key parts of our inputs [for the greenhouse food production systems] are electricity and carbon dioxide; therefore, being close to power plants has a massive advantage in the cost structure. We’re looking to collaborate with commercial partners to enable that and help us find the right infrastructure.”

Globally, the controlled environment agriculture market is projected to grow from around $74 billion in 2020 to more than $172 billion in 2025, according to US-based KD Market Insights.

In addition to hydroponic greenhouse farming, Pure Harvest is expanding into vertical farming, another form of CEA, through a collaboration with South Korea’s PlanTFarm, whose country is highly urbanised. “We learnt everything from the hardest point. We selected a country [the UAE] which has one of the harshest climates, not only high in temperature but also in humidity, which is a key factor you need to take into consideration as you build these facilities” said Sanad.

“If you’re going to create a solution, it should work in the worst possible scenario. That was the reason we started in the UAE, besides having a lot of support from the government. A big part of it was, if we could solve it here, we could solve it anywhere,” he concluded.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
Newswrap: Islamic finance

Iraq Islamic Bank partners with MSA Novo to launch a fund to invest in tech-focused startups; Iraq’s Al Sanam Islamic Bank signs with ICSFS; Nominations open for 2023 Islamic Development Bank prize for Impactful Achievement in Islamic economics; Bank Negara Malaysia to announced 6th Royal Award for Islamic Finance in October; Book released on Islamic Development Bank Institute's evolution and first president; UAE-based B2B marketplace Produze raises $2.6 million to digitalise agricultural value chain; Egyptian e-commerce platform Sharwa raises $2 million in pre-seed financing.

 

Iraq Islamic Bank partners with MSA Novo to launch a fund to invest in tech-focused startups

As the global drive toward digitisation accelerates in the wake of Covid-19, implementing online solutions is even more critical to meet adapted consumer behaviour and market conditions. Moreover, particularly in emerging technology markets, the integration of paradigm-shifting technologies allows consumers, corporates, and governments to leap rungs on the evolutionary ladder.

Novel technologies allow for virtual infrastructure where the physical lags, allowing the provision of critical services not possible in the offline realm. Nowhere is this demand more critical than Iraq, a market with massive untapped potential, hindered by a historical lack of cohesive offline infrastructure. Iraq boasts a young, technology-savvy, well-educated consumer base with relatively high purchasing power. Yet these individuals struggle against the challenges imposed by outdated or broken infrastructure and fragmented supply chains.

Into this void steps Iraq Islamic Bank (IIB) and MSA Novo (MSA), with YAG Capital as senior advisor for this partnership, according to a press release. Now is time to lay the digital rails and platforms on which all future commerce, financial services, government administration, and healthcare delivery will reside.

Under these conditions, it is paramount to not just invest in startups but directly engage in building companies which merge the technical capabilities and global best practices aggregated by MSA with the local market knowledge and execution capabilities of IIB. This vehicle is historically the first endeavour of this nature established for Iraq and the largest pool of capital ever aggregated for investment into the technology ecosystem in the country. This initiative aims to not only create value for its investors and the shareholders of IIB but will also kickstart the innovation flywheel in the market. By funding, building, and mentoring the next generation of Iraqi business leaders, this endeavour seeks to lay the foundations for the country's long-term economic and social success.

The fund is already among the active investors in Iraq, having co-led the most extensive funding round in Iraqi tech startup history with the super app, Baly. Targeted investment sectors will be core logistics and payments infrastructure layers, consumer technology platforms and enterprise enablers.

Iraq’s Al Sanam Islamic Bank signs with ICSFS

Newly-established Al Sanam Islamic bank has selected ICS BANKS Islamic Banking software solution from ICS Financial Systems (ICSFS), the global software and services provider for banks and financial institutions, according to a press release. The signing ceremony took place at ICSFS’ centre of excellence, Amman, Jordan. Al Sanam Islamic Bank will provide comprehensive, Sharia-compliant financing products and services to the Iraqi market, with a robust focus on digital banking. The bank will be implementing ICS BANKS Islamic Core, Financing Facilities & Risk Groups, Remittances, Murabaha, Mudaraba, Musharaka, Ijara, Istisnaa, Profit Distribution, Al Qard Al Hassan, Time Deposit, Trade Finance, ICS BANKS Digital, and ERP solutions.

Nominations open for 2023 Islamic Development Bank prize for Impactful Achievement in Islamic economics

The Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDBI) is inviting nominations for its prize for Impactful Achievement in Islamic Economics for the year 1444H (2023). Focusing on the Development Solutions Achievement category, this cycle of the Prize aims to recognize, reward, and encourage creative projects that successfully solve economic and financial challenges in the IsDB member countries, according to a press release.

Individuals and institutions can apply or nominate other individuals and institutions based on a project that has a positive and significant impact on people’s lives and has a substantial impact on economic development based on Islamic principles. The prize comes with a $100,000 award for the first-place winner, $70,000 for second place, and $30,000 for third place. The nominated projects should be initiated within the previous seven years and be replicable elsewhere.

The application or nomination is a two-step process that can be initiated by visiting the IsDB Prize Portal website. The first step is the registration of the nominator/applicant, which is open until 11 December 2022. The second step is for the nominator/applicant to upload the nomination form details and any relevant files before 20 December 2022.

The prize winner and runners-up will be honored at a ceremony during the 2023 IsDB Group Annual Meetings on a date to be announced in due course.

Bank Negara Malaysia to announced 6th Royal Award for Islamic Finance in October

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) are pleased to announce that the Royal Award for Islamic Finance 2022 will be conferred at a ceremony on 4 October 2022 in Kuala Lumpur, according to a press release.

The Royal Award recognises visionary individuals whose outstanding achievements and innovative ideas contribute significantly to the growth of Islamic finance, the global economy, and  social progress of communities around the world. A global call for nominations was made in December 2021, following which 49 submissions were received for 37 nominees from 14 countries. These nominees include renowned Islamic finance practitioners, Shariah scholars, and academicians.

This year’s winner will be the sixth recipient of the prestigious Royal Award, which was  inaugurated in 2010 as a biennial award1 in support of Malaysia as the global standard of a comprehensive and sophisticated Islamic finance marketplace.

The Royal Award winner is selected by an independent seven-member international jury headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Musa Hitam. The jury comprises eminent Shariah scholars, academicians, and finance practitioners. The assessment process is based on a set of defined selection criteria, encompassing contributions towards driving policy development, developing and growing the Islamic finance market, advocating for Islamic finance, pioneering innovation, expanding the frontiers of knowledge, and exercising exceptional leadership and influence.

In addition to the Royal Award, two new award categories have been introduced this year - the Emerging Leader Prize and Impact Challenge Prize which will be presented in a separate ceremony.

The Emerging Leader Prize recognises young international talent who have made outstanding contributions in advancing innovative ideas in the field of Islamic finance. For this award, the Secretariat has received a total of 18 submissions for 14 nominees from 8 countries. The prize winner is determined by an international panel of Selection Committee, comprising esteemed academicians and industry practitioners.

Meanwhile, the Impact Challenge Prize recognises digital and innovative solutions based on Islamic finance principles or Islamic finance enablers, that seek to improve the economic and social resilience of financially impacted communities globally. This prize is a collaboration with the World Bank Group Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Finance Hub in Malaysia and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. The prize winner(s) are evaluated based on four criteria - innovation, impact, commercial viability and scalability.

The organisers have received 50 applications from 14 countries for the Impact Challenge Prize. Those who met the criteria were shortlisted to join an Accelerator Programme. At the end of the Programme, they presented their innovative solutions to a panel of judges, comprising senior representatives from BNM and SC, Islamic Development Bank, World Bank Group and the venture capital industry. The Emerging Leader and Impact Challenge Prizes will be presented at the Global Islamic Finance Forum (GIFF) on 5 October 2022 in Kuala Lumpur.

Book released on Islamic Development Bank Institute's evolution and first president

The Islamic Development Bank Institute (IsDBI) has released a book which reviews the history and exceptional achievements of the IsDB from a nascent idea till the retirement of its first President, Dr. Ahmad Mohammad Ali, in 2016, according to a press release.

The new book is the English language translation of the original book first published in Arabic language in 2020. It deals with the various stages and key milestones the IsDB went through in the context of global and regional changes. It also highlights the first IsDB President’s initiatives, approaches, and ideas that he drew on in his interaction with the realities of countries and communities whose aspirations for growth, progress, and prosperity are depicted in the essence of the Bank’s mission.

The book includes success stories that illustrate valuable lessons as well as testimonies of personalities who dealt with the Bank, believed in its mission, knew Dr. Ahmad Ali well and highly appreciated him. The book was written at the behest of the former IsDB President, Dr. Bandar M.H. Hajjar, in compliance with a decision of the Board of Executive Directors.

Written in a simple yet very structured style, the book will be useful for diverse groups of readers, including researchers, development specialists, those interested in Islamic banking, and analysts of institutional and administrative practices and experiences. The authors are two retired senior IsDB staff members, El Mansour Ben Feten and Dr. Marwan Seifeddine, who worked previously as advisors to the first president and as department directors. They deployed the tireless effort and the diligence required in authoring a work of this nature by ensuring meticulousness and accuracy under the supervision of Dr. Ali and with the support and assistance of a team of IsDB Group officials.

UAE-based B2B marketplace Produze raises $2.6 million to digitalise agricultural value chain

UAE-based Produze, a platform for bringing agricultural producers and international retailers together, raised $2.6 million in seed financing led by Accel (first investors in Facebook, Spotify, Flipkart) with participation from All In Capital, and founder/CEOs of Ninjacart, Sammunati, Fashinza, Drip Capital, CityMall, Stellapps, DhanHQ and other investors, according to a press release.

Produze is a first of its kind platform that enables retailers to procure directly from source country agri producers delivered to their stores, enabling quality guarantee, competitive pricing, complete fulfillment and just-in-time delivery. The startup digitises procurement operations through a wide network of source producers, digitized exporting operations, importing operations and last mile logistics.

“Cross border supply chain for agri produce today is fragmented with several intermediaries and poorly managed processes, which creates inconsistency in quality, inefficient prices and wastage - leading to loss in value for the retailers and distributors.” said Ben Mathew, C0-founder & CEO, Produze. “At Produze, we’re enabling seamless commerce between the retailers and agri producers to return this wasted value back to them.”

Produze will serve multiple agri produce categories in multiple countries in Middle East, North America and Europe, serving a $143 billion market. The platform is now inviting applications for retailers and distributors on produze.com

“The Middle East has been a big strategic focus for Produze; UAE for instance is a dynamic and globalised market relying significantly on imports for food needs of an expanding population, where citizens and residents seek premium and uncompromised food quality at competitive prices. Produze is committed to bringing the benefits of technology and source producers access to enable retailers to get consistent quality, better prices and complete just-in-time fulfillment,” said Ben.

Produze was founded in 2022 by Ben Mathew, Gaurav Agrawal, Rakesh Sasidharan and Emil Soman. Ben and Gaurav were a part of the leadership team at Ninjacart, India’s largest agritech startup, enabling new distribution models, customer growth, profitability and investments. Rakesh and Ben had previously founded a B2C marketplace startup for home cooked food. Emil, who is the CTO, is a YCombinator alum and was the co-founder at Dockup.

Egyptian e-commerce platform Sharwa raises $2 million in pre-seed financing

Egyptian social commerce platform Sharwa has closed a pre-seed funding round for $2 million. The round was co-led by Nuwa Capital and Hambro Perks Oryx Fund and joined by several strategic angel investors, according to a press release. The pre-seed investment will be spent on the continued development of the technology platform and expanding the team.

Inflation has put a strain on households globally, where customers are looking for access to more affordable products. Sharwa aims to help customers do just that, starting with Egypt. Sharwa’s platform allows customers to get the best prices for their daily purchases on household essentials like groceries, appliances and homecare. Customers can club their baskets into a group order and place them through Sharwa using WhatsApp or directly on its app, unlocking wholesale prices from manufacturers for next-day delivery. In order to provide service in remote areas, Sharwa works with local community leaders, who have been Super Users of the service, to collect orders in their area.

Islamic Finance
Indonesia seeks greater role of Islamic finance amid global financial inclusion push

Indonesia, which holds the presidency of the G20 group of major economies this year, wants to use this position to increase the role of Islamic finance worldwide, to boost consumer access to affordable financial products and services.

 

Jakarta: Financial inclusion is one of the goals of the G20, made more important by the COVID-19 pandemic widening inequality for the most financially vulnerable and underserved groups, said Dian Triansyah Djani, Indonesia’s ‘co-sherpa’ (diplomatic coordinator) for the G20.

“There’s no specific Islamic finance agenda at the G20, but Islamic finance plays a significant role in the global economy,” Dian told Salaam Gateway.

“At the G20 we want to move forward the financial inclusion agenda, with a focus on wider access to funding for small and medium enterprises, and this is closely linked to Islamic finance,” he said.

As a result, Indonesia will host the 6th Annual Islamic Finance Conference as a G20 side event in Jakarta on 9 September. Two months later, Bank Indonesia (the country’s central bank), the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (another central bank), and the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) are scheduled to hold a seminar on Islamic finance and digitisation on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, in another G20 side event.

A greater role for Islamic finance could be a catalyst for social and economic to achieve the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), Indonesia's finance ministry told Salaam Gateway in a written statement. One of the important ways it can be done is through standardisation of best practices, it said, noting: “As the holder of the G20 presidency this year, Indonesia has an opportunity to promote greater growth in Islamic economics and finance, including the halal industry.”

“The attainment of SDGs is closely related to Sharia-based finance, including sustainable finance and digital financial inclusion. The Indonesian government has implemented several programmes that are in line with SDGs commitments and Sharia economic development, such as the issuance of green retail sukuk and ultra-micro financing for underserved communities such as women and micro-enterprises,” it added.

Such globally coordinated policies as shepherded by the G20 are important, given the turnover of the global Islamic finance industry is projected to reach $3.7 trillion by 2024, said Muhammad Al Jasser, IsDB president.

“We believe that Islamic social funding can stimulate economic activity and promote social welfare, financial inclusion, and shared prosperity by utilizing the traditional instruments such as zakat, sadaqah, waqf and microfinance through modern tools such as blockchain, fintech, and artificial intelligence,” he told the Global Islamic Investment Forum (GIIF), in Jakarta, in March – an event staged within Indonesia’s G20 presidential programme.

Al Jasser said awqaf - assets that are donated, bequeathed, or purchased for being held in perpetual trust for charitable causes - could be an alternative social finance framework, and reaffirmed the bank’s commitment to work with Indonesia's G20 team to bring the effort to fruition.

In 2020, the Islamic banking sector grew 4.3% year on year, reaching more than $2.7 trillion in total assets, according to Qardus, a UK-based Sharia-compliant business financing platform.

Islamic banking accounts for over 6% of the global banking market and comprises 68.2% of the total market of the global Islamic financial services industry, Qardus noted.

Continued growth in these banking services could help expand the halal sector, which according to the State of Global Islamic Economy Report 2022, involved Muslims spending $2 trillion in 2021 across the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, fashion, travel and media/recreation sectors.

This is especially the case in Indonesia, the world’s largest domestic halal economy market and home to nearly 230 million Muslims, with domestic spending across halal economy products and services of $184 billion in 2020, according to the Indonesia Halal Markets Report 2021/2022.

According to a 2020 census, only 40.3%, about 80.3 million people, in Indonesia have a bank account, up 50% from 2014. “Islamic finance plays an important role in meeting the financing needs to achieve the sustainable development goals,” said Tomi Soetjipto, a spokesman for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in Jakarta.

“Therefore, in the past few years we have worked together with Islamic institutions to channel funds for SDG projects in Indonesia,” he told Salaam Gateway.

He noted that the Islamic finance sector in Indonesia has been growing between 10-12% annually across instruments such as sharia-compliant banking, asset management, sukuk and takaful.

Non-commercial instruments such as zakat, sadaqah and waqf “have also attracted the interest of the global community,” he added. The Indonesian government wants to ease payments of zakat and sadaqah through the banking system (both Sharia-compliant and conventional), plus mobile payment apps and online marketplaces. And its G20 presidency has also been an opportunity to push for the digitisation of small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), which will aid the facilitation of these payments. Indonesia has set three priority issues for its G20 presidency on digitisation: connectivity and post-Covid recovery; digital skills and literacy; and cross-border data free flows with trust, said the country's communications and information technology minister Johnny G. Plate at a G20 digital economy working group meeting in March.

Indonesia is also advocating dialogue between countries on the governance of the global digital ecosystem. Dima Djani, CEO of Indonesia-based Alami, a Sharia-compliant peer-to-peer lending platform, said: “SMEs are the driver of the economy and have proven to be resilient in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and it should be the government’s priority to increase access to funding for them.”

Digitisation is a major driver of economic transformation, with financial technology and e-commerce transactions valued at an estimated $24.8 billion in Indonesia last year, said Dima.

Alami has disbursed Indonesia Rupiah IDR2.6 trillion ($179.8 million) in sharia financing to SMEs across the country’s 32 provinces since it began operations in 2019.

“With increased financial inclusion it is important that we also increase the financial literacy of the people, so that they will manage their money more wisely,” she said. It is a sign of optimism that such a grassroots benefit can be yielded from global policy making at the G20.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
Newswrap: Islamic finance

$17.6 million raised for fintech in Pakistan’s largest-ever seed round; ESG-linked sukuk on growth trajectory; Pakistan makes payment on Sharjah Islamic Bank sukuk; Oman’s Islamic banking sector reports double-digit growth.

 

$17.6 million raised for fintech in Pakistan’s largest-ever seed round

Islamabad-based fintech Dbank raised $17.6 million in Pakistan’s largest seed round, reported Bloomberg. The funding round was co-led by Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia and Kleiner Perkins, with Askari Bank Ltd, Brazil’s Nubank, and Rayn also involved. Pakistan has the world’s third largest unbanked population, which the fintech hopes to target and then expand to other Muslim-majority countries. “Pakistan has a fast-growing middle class with increasingly sophisticated banking needs. This signals a unique opportunity to build a large, customer-centric bank for millions of people,” Sequoia Southeast Asia’s Vice President, Johan Surani, is quoted as saying. Start-up financing is burgeoning in the Islamic Republic, the world’s fifth most populated country, attracting $350 million last year.

ESG-linked sukuk on growth trajectory

Environmental, social and governance (ESG)-linked sukuk is likely to persist as a key issuance theme in core Islamic finance jurisdictions amid government initiatives that promote sustainability and economic diversification, along with rising investor demand and awareness, says Fitch Ratings. Fitch rates more than 80% of the hard-currency ESG-linked sukuk market; while 10.4% of all Fitch-rated sukuk is ESG-linked, the segment’s growth potential remains high.

“Commonalities exist between Islamic finance and ESG principles due to built-in sharia filters, but there are differences,” said Bashar Al-Natoor, Global Head of Islamic Finance at Fitch. “Islamic finance does not relate only to the use of proceeds, but Islamic products also have to be structured in a way that complies with sharia. The global ESG-linked sukuk market has flourished in recent years, and we expect growth to continue in the medium term.”

Outstanding ESG-linked sukuk expanded by 11.2% quarter on quarter in Q2 2022, reaching $19.3 billion. About $4.3 billion of ESG-linked sukuk was issued in the first half of 2022, wrote Fitch in report Global ESG Sukuk Market.

Key challenges in core Islamic finance markets include a complex issuance process, regulatory constraints as well as a shortage of domestic ESG-focused investors and issuers. Sukuk must also comply with sharia.

ESG-related issues, such as water scarcity, climate change and governance reform, are key issues in a number of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries. For example, five out of six countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region rank in the top-10 globally when it comes to extreme temperature and drought.

Pakistan makes payment on Sharjah Islamic Bank sukuk

Pakistan is going through an economic crisis, seeking $6 billion from the IMF. Despite its financial woes, with a deficit of around $10 billion, the Islamic Republic has signalled it will not default on its external debt of $24 billion and has kept up with its bond repayments. Bloomberg reported that the Sharjah Islamic Bank received a schedule coupon of around $40 million on 31 July for its holding of a $1 billion sukuk issued in January. The State Bank of Pakistan confirmed the development to Bloomberg, saying “Pakistan’s sukuk coupon payment has been executed and all debt repayments during this week are on track, including the one due on August 3”.

Oman’s Islamic banking sector reports double-digit growth

Oman’s Islamic banking sector asset base grew by 13.6% in 2021, to RO5.9 billion ($15.34 billion), according to the central bank’s Financial Stability Report 2021, reported the Oman Observer. The Sultanate has two Islamic banks and five Islamic banking windows, which account for 15.2% of the overall banking sector’s assets. Profitability was three times higher last year on 2020, when there was a drop in activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halal Industry
India has huge potential as halal meat export source

High quality meat sees growing exports to the Gulf States.

 

New Delhi: While 80% of India’s 1.4 billion people may be Hindu, the prominent position of Muslims in the country’s slaughtering and butchery sector means it has vast potential as a halal meat and meat products supplier to the Islamic world, say experts.

Only in slaughterhouses serving Sikh areas – there are more than 20 million Sikhs in India, mainly living in the Punjab – is non-halal slaughtering commonplace. The Sikh community prefers animals be slaughtered by the jhatka technique where the head is severed in one stroke by a sharp tool.

However, according to Aswhani Kumar Rajput, executive director of All India Poultry Breeders Association, only 5% of Indian animals and birds are slaughtered by this method with most of the rest being halal.

“There are some slaughterhouses where non-halal meat is also processed, mainly to supply the Sikh regiment of the Indian army. During that time normal halal production is stopped,” said Maulana Niaz Ahmed Farooqui, chief executive of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, a major halal certifying agency based in the capital New Delhi.

Mohammad Yusuf Qureshi, Uttar Pradesh (UP) state president of All India Jamaat-ul-Quraish, a meat traders’ association, told Salaam Gateway: “All the slaughtermen, especially in UP, are Muslim and there is no doubt the meat will be halal.”

The UP towns of Unnao, Aligarh and Ghaziabad are the major slaughtering centres for buffalo meat, said Farooqui.

UP is India’s most populous state with more than 205 million people, 20% of whom are Muslim. It is also an important one for meat exports, housing nine of the country’s 12 meat processing plants approved by the central government’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).

The other three are in west India’s Maharashtra and southern India’s Karnataka. In all there are about 3,600 slaughterhouses in the country, according to APEDA figures.

According to a central government survey, the majority of Indian Hindus eat meat and are not concerned if it is halal or not. Hence, the potential for exporting halal meat from India was significant and realised.

 

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Meat and offal exports grew 4.76% last financial year

According to figures released by Indian ministry of commerce and industry, in the financial year ending March 2022, the country exported $3.38 billion worth of meat and edible offal, 4.76% higher than the previous year.

The biggest destinations were majority Muslim Egypt ($740 million) and Malaysia ($445 million) as well as Vietnam ($488 million). Meanwhile, to wealthy Muslim markets such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, exports were $164 million and $159 million respectively, registering a year-on-year growth of 33% and 45%.

Other export markets were Oman ($44 million), Qatar ($31 million) and Kuwait and Bahrain ($25 million each).

The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Halal Trust, which Farooqui said is accredited by 13 countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE, provides 200 contracted halal supervisors to certified Indian slaughterhouses. They ensure the slaughtering knife is sharp; animals are not tortured; they are served water and the slaughtermen recite “Bismillah, Allah Hu Akbar” as they kill livestock.

Farooqui said using such supervisors was commonplace in Indian slaughterhouses that require halal certification (including exporters), with often at least two – and sometimes four – people on duty when slaughtering takes place.

India’s competitive advantage was not just its compliance with ritual. Farooqui said the quality of the country’s buffalo meat was the best; its taste good and it has high protein and low-fat content.

He emphasised Indian halal standards were strict and its certifying system highly organised.

India enjoys a major cost advantage over other exporters like Brazil and Australia in the buffalo segment as a significant proportion of the Indian meat comes from spent animals mainly reared for milk, said Rajput, also executive director of All India Poultry Breeders Association.

He said the same applied to Indian goats and sheep. These products experience high demand with two to three cargo planes departing Delhi Airport daily for the Gulf countries.

“Further butchering of these carcasses is done in the Gulf countries itself,” he said.

However, unfortunately Indian broiler chickens were raised exclusively for their meat. Brazil, as a major chicken exporter, has a lower cost of production meaning India does not export many chickens.

Regardless, the Indian meat industry is large

According to the last livestock census conducted by the central government’s department of animal husbandry and dairying in 2019, there were 110 million buffaloes, 74 million sheep, 149 million goats and 852 million poultry birds in India.

These quantities were significantly higher than the 2012 census. The number of cows also increased to 145 million but, as Hindus consider them holy, their slaughter and consumption is banned in most Indian states including UP.

The southern state of Kerala, with its significant Muslim and Christian populations, does allow cows to be slaughtered. As well as offering beef for local consumption – although not for exports, which cannot be made from India – this state’s strong meat sector also supplies many butchers and slaughterhouse workers (along with mainly Hindu neighbouring Tamil Nadu) to export-oriented slaughterhouses in UP. These are often contracted labourers and include many women, said Farooqui.

Slaughterhouse owners provide their workers with shared in-house accommodation, some of which consist of 50 to 100 residential quarters, and operate in two eight-hour shifts daily, said Qureshi, whose brother owns one such slaughterhouse in UP.

These southern slaughtering skills are in demand as UP businesses can struggle to hire local slaughterers with good hygiene practice, he said.

Quality matters in the export business and operations are scrutinised by teams from buyers’ companies making regular inspection visits; checking for dust, pests and even cats, said Qureshi.

“If there is any hair, fly or mosquito found in the meat, everything is rejected and wasted,” he said.

Combining such skills, with halal awareness and large volumes, the Indian meat sector is set to be a major meat supplier to the Muslim world for years to come.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Islamic Finance
Muslim credit society transforming lives of the poor in India

Helping community members while adhering to Islamic principles.

 

Patna: A Muslim cooperative credit society, founded on the Islamic principle that prohibits charging interest on loans, is transforming the lives of numerous poor Hindus and Muslims throughout India.

In the past 20 years, the Al-Khair Society has provided interest-free loans of over Rs. 1,250 million (about $15.2 million) to nearly 25,000 people, mostly those struggling for survival.

Syed Shamim Rizvi, Chairman of Al-Khair told Salaam Gateway, “We have been successful in providing help to those who needed small loans. Initially it was difficult to win (their) trust because … some cooperative credit societies and finance companies had committed fraud and fled with the people’s hard-earned money, but Al-Khair succeeded in dispelling the fears of small depositors and won their confidence with honesty and dedication to work.”

Most beneficiaries are low-income groups like small traders, shopkeepers, roadside hawkers, owners of small roadside eateries (dhaba wallas), women, labourers and small farmers who had been fleeced by unscrupulous private moneylenders providing loans at exorbitant interest rates.

The Al-Khair Society helped them break free from the loan sharks’ clutches and secure interest-free loans. Roughly half of these beneficiaries are Hindus.

The organisation has 13 branches across Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Delhi and provides hassle-free loans two weeks after an applicant has submitted basic documents. Field staff visit the borrowers directly to collect loan instalments, simplifying the repayment process.

Launched in 2002 by Arshad Ajmal, then Chairman of Al-Khair Charitable Trust, Badurl Hoda, Syed Shamim Rizvi and a few others, the society currently has 29,000 members across India.

The founders contributed money and set the ball rolling, registering the organisation under the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act and operating via a 21-strong board.

Over one-third of Al-Khair’s members are women

About 35% of the society’s members are women and, in 2012, it established a branch in the Bihar capital Patna fully managed by women. There are four other branches also headed by women with more to follow.

Al-Khair has worked assiduously to build a female workforce. Rizvi said the society has employed widows and divorced women in dire need of financial help. During the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown from March 2020, it became difficult for people to make ends as businesses closed and unemployment climbed.

Rizvi said in that situation, Al-Khair became a saviour for hard-hit poor and low-income families.

“I run a small boutique shop, but it remained closed for months … and my husband, a private school teacher, also faced salary cuts. We have two small children and the government assistance was not enough,” Reshma Khan, a 30-something Patna resident, told Salaam Gateway.

She added, as an Al-Khair member, the society provided her with a Rs 30,000 ($390) loan from which they managed their household expenses.

Khan also invested a portion of her loan into the shop to acquire fresh stock and repaid the loan as business slowly picked up.

While the organisation helped other needy people during the pandemic, the COVID-19-induced lockdowns also meant Al-Khair faced financial hardship as deposits dwindled. However, Rizvi said they could not let people suffer and their diligence further strengthened people’s faith in Al-Khair.

 

(Al Khair/Shuriah Niazi)

 

Helping those who can’t get bank loans

Al-Khair extends a helping hand to needy Hindus and other communities without discrimination and presents an example of communal and religious harmony. Dinesh Vishwakarma, a young Hindu who runs a small roadside eatery in the UP capital Lucknow, said his shop recently suffered substantial financial loss and he urgently needed money.

“It is very difficult for people like us to get loans from commercial banks. The banks are reluctant … as they require guarantee the loan will be repaid. Al-Khair is different. They don’t demand too many documents and charge only a small service fee, so repaying the loan is easy as there is no burden of interest,” he said.

Vishwakarma said the Al-Khair loan helped him refurbish and expand the shop, boosting his income.

“It is aptly a people’s cooperative,” he added.

Given Al-Khair’s current popularity and trust, it is not surprising there is demand to open branches, but administrative hassles have prevented the society from new launches since the 2014 venture into Delhi. It plans to open three branches in Bihar and two in Jharkhand, but its application has been pending with the government authorities since 2016.

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Halal Industry
Pharmaniaga’s new partnership will commercialise Malaysia’s first halal blood anticoagulant

Anticoagulants and cardiovascular treatments will be among the top five therapy areas in 2026 with each segment expecting $87 billion in global spending, forecasts the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Sciences.

 

Malaysia-based Pharmaniaga Berhad has entered into a memorandum of collaboration (MoC) with China’s Suzhou Ronnsi Pharma Co., Ltd (Ronnsi) to commercialise halal ovine (sheep) anticoagulant in Malaysia.

Founded in November 2012, Ronnsi focuses on complex drug development. Belonging to the anticoagulants class, their sheep-derived purified heparin and sheep enoxaparin sodium are used to prevent or treat blood vessel, heart and lung conditions.

Typically, manufacturers extract heparin and enoxaparin from porcine (pig) origins, making these products possibly unacceptable for patients practising the Islamic faith.

Pharmaniaga was established in 1994 and is one of Malaysia’s largest listed integrated pharmaceutical groups. The company is involved in various segments of the pharmaceutical value chain from research and development to manufacturing generic drugs, over-the-counter medicines and nutraceuticals, logistics and distribution, sales and marketing and retail pharmacies.

“Addressing the unmet demands for halal pharmaceuticals, halal ovine anticoagulant has a vast opportunity to grow, especially among Muslim populations and countries,” Pharmaniaga Group Managing Director Zulkarnain Md Eusope said in a press release commenting on the MoC’s commercial potential.

He added that from 2019 to 2021, the market value for anticoagulants experienced a 50% compound annual growth rate. The rise in COVID-19 cases boosted the demand; an issue also documented by researchers at the Medical University of Vienna.

That study found COVID-19 patients have an increased risk of thromboses and embolisms, such as strokes, pulmonary or myocardial infarctions and even deep vein thromboses.

“These complications during hospitalisation have a direct impact on the patients’ well-being and increases the risk of dying from COVID-19,” David Pereyra, one of the researchers, said.

Health professionals also use anticoagulants for invasive surgeries and preventive treatment for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. A medical journal reports that over the last 30 years, deaths from cardiovascular disease have almost doubled from 271 million in 1990 to 523 million in 2019.

The highest number of deaths occurred in densely populated countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Russia and the United States. Concerned about the possibility of product shortages caused by health, agricultural and economic factors, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages reintroducing heparin derived from sources other than porcine.

According to the FDA, bovine (cow lung) heparin was first approved in the US in 1939 and widely used for over 50 years. However, concerns about the possible introduction of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy agents (TSE or mad cow disease agents), saw manufacturers voluntarily remove bovine heparin from the US market in the late 1990s.

Now, recent comparative studies on clotting and anti-protease profiles on heparins of ovine, bovine and porcine origin reveal bovine heparins produce weaker anticoagulant effects compared to porcine and ovine.

While Ronnsi’s ovine anticoagulant is already halal-certified in Indonesia and Hong Kong, Pharmanagia will apply to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) for halal certification.

The venture with Ronnsi positions Pharmaniaga as the exclusive registration holder, distributor and manufacturer in Malaysia, while the Chinese hold the patent and will develop the product. Pharmaniaga will present the relevant documents to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency for approval as part of procuring the required raw materials and manufacturing the drug.

The healthcare specialist expects the registration process to be completed by 2024.

 

 

Set for growth

Following the late 2021 announcement to invest $14 million into a new halal insulin facility, expected to open in 2025, Pharmaniaga plans to fuel revenue growth by registering and supplying more of its currently approved 320 pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products throughout South-east Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe with a particular focus on the United Kingdom and Turkey.

As a critical step in entering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market, in March Pharmaniaga signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the PRIME Healthcare Group, one of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) leading healthcare service providers, operating 15 medical centres, 15 pharmacies, multiple diagnostic centres and a multi-specialty hospital.

The MoU provides the framework that grants PRIME the exclusive rights to register, import, promote, market, sell and distribute Pharmaniaga’s pharmaceutical products in the UAE.

“With the halal pharmaceutical market set to grow to $205 billion by 2024, we believe the partnership with PRIME will widen our market reach and contribute significantly to revenue,” Zulkarnain said at the MoU signing ceremony.

He added Dubai would be the base to expand Pharmaniaga products to other countries in the region, but pointed out the company required about three years to strengthen its business segments before realising significant yields from the expansion plans.

In 2021 the group posted its highest-ever profit after tax of $38.6 million (RM172 million), exceeding the comparative $5.8 million (RM26 million) more than sixfold. The improved bottom line came on the back of a 77% surge in revenue to $1.1 billion (RM4.8 billion) from $600 million (RM2.7 billion).

Zulkarnain credited the increase to the supply of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to the Ministry of Health and the private sector coupled with higher contributions from its concession, non-concession and Indonesian operations.

The positive financial performance continued in the first quarter of 2022 with the group’s profit after tax and zakat comparatively growing 26.4% to $6.5 million (RM28.9 million) and revenue rising 21.3% to $216.1 million (RM962.2 million).

© SalaamGateway.com 2022. All Rights Reserved

Halal Industry
Newswrap: Halal industry

Bangladesh joins SMIIC to certify halal foods; Saudi Arabia allocates $2.5 billion for food security; Indonesia re-allows food imports from all of Japan; Iran seeks food security overseas; Beirut’s grain silos damaged two years after blast; Somalia in ‘grip of famine’.

 

Bangladesh joins SMIIC to certify halal foods

Bangladesh has become a member of the OIC’s Standards and Metrology Institure for Islamic Countries (SMIIC). The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) will provide its services based on SMIIC standards for the export of food and non-food items to OIC countries, reported New Age Bangladesh. BSTI provides halal certification for food and processed food, livestock and fisheries, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and canned food.

Saudi Arabia allocates $2.5 billion for food security

Riyadh has allocated some $2.5 billion to support the inventories of wheat and barley and compensate importers, reported Al Sharq Al Awsat. The Saudi Food Security Committee made the move to address rising global food prices. The Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO) allocated $1.2 billion in its budget, while $1.1 billion of the Agricultural Development Fund's (ADF) budget is to be lent to the private sector to finance contracts. A further $213 million is to be provided in subsidies to breeders and producers. In other news, the Agriculture Ministry is to offer grants to bolster poultry production. The kingdom has raised poultry production from 45% in 2016, to 68% in 2022, with a target of 80% by 2025, according to the Saudi Press Agency and WATTPoultry.com.

Indonesia re-allows food imports from all of Japan

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, Indonesia banned the import of Japanese food over contamination concerns. During a meeting in Tokyo between the leaders of Japan and Indonesia, the latter announced it would ease all restrictions, reported News Track Live. Indonesia had “required radiation-free certificates for imports of meat, vegetables and other food products from Miyagi, Yamagata and five other Japanese prefectures.”

Iran seeks food security overseas

Iran is struggling to ensure food security amid drought, climate change and a growing population. Out of the country’s 165 million hectares, an estimated 50 million is arable while just 18 million is used for farming, reported Middle East Eye. The Islamic Republic has also looked abroad to secure food, with Venezuela offering Iran 1 million hectares of land in July, while Russia has also reportedly offered 100,000 hectares. Iran needs to import some 8 million tonnes of wheat this year to offset shortfalls. MEE reported that the country produces 133 million tonnes of food a year, but had to import 28 million tonnes last year, primarily wheat and corn.

Beirut’s grain silos damaged two years after blast

Parts of Beirut’s grain silos collapsed on Sunday, just days ahead of the two-year anniversary of the deadly explosion that destroyed the port and killed 215 people in the Lebanese capital on 4 August 2020, reported Middle East Eye. The silos had a capacity of 100,000 kilogrammes but were seriously damaged in the explosion. Part of the facility had been able to store 3,000 tonnes of wheat and corn, but have not been able to be accessed over stability concerns. The port area has been evacuated.

Somalia in ‘grip of famine’

The President of Somalia, Hassan Shaykh Mohamud, has announced a state of famine in the East African country due to drought. Some seven million Somalis are at risk due to a shortage of food amid the country’s worst drought in 40 years. More than 15 million head of livestock, 28% of the country's total, have been impacted, and more than 2 million other animals have died, reported News 360.


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