KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s ambition to make Tokyo 2020 the first “halal Olympic Games” has received a boost through a government agency-supported programme to help small and medium enterprises and micro-businesses promote their products in Japan.
The Digital Trade Halal Value Chain initiative, which saw its soft launch in Kuala Lumpur on August 15, sets out to help an anticipated eight million Muslim sports fans who will be visiting Tokyo find halal products and services.
The programme will be guided by a committee of representatives from the Malaysian public and private sectors led by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), the national trade promotion agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The group will develop a plan to support halal exporters for next year’s sporting event.
"Given Malaysia’s close relationship with Japan and strong credibility of Malaysian halal products and services due to Islamic Development Malaysia Department's JAKIM certification, we are confident Malaysia has a stronger position to become the main provider for halal products and services during the Tokyo Olympic 2020,” said Wan Latif Wan Musa, MATRADE’s chief executive, at the launch of the initiative in Kuala Lumpur on August 15.
The initiative not only aims to support halal food exporters to Japan, but also assist in ancillary segments, including logistics, data analytics, retail, halal certification, food distribution and tourism, Wan Latif said.
The committee will guide some 10 activities over the period until the Games begin, in July 2020, with MATRADE leading the halal promotion and marketing portfolio.
Malaysian halal exports to Japan are poised to increase from last year’s total of 2.5 billion Malaysian ringgit ($598 million), due to growing Muslim tourist numbers and preparations ahead of the Games, Wan Latif said.
The official revealed that Japan had expressed an interest in sourcing hundreds of millions of halal meals for Muslim tourists and athletes during Tokyo 2020.
“There is potential for more than 140 million meals required at the athlete’s village and approximately 720 million halal meals to be prepared during the event [overall],” said Wan Latif.
“There will be a high demand for halal products and services, especially in food and beverages. In view of this, local SMEs can leverage this opportunity by providing halal products and services to Japan while penetrating into the Japanese halal market.”
As its name suggests, the Digital Trade Halal Value Chain initiative will place its focus on technology to enable Malaysian exporters to gain a foothold in Japan over the coming year.
Norazman Ayob, deputy secretary-general for trade at MITI, asserted that small businesses must embrace digitalisation to gain from the MATRADE initiative’s goals, though other countries in the region have a headstart in this regard.
He highlighted technology such as retail scanning app Verify Halal, which can reveal the provenance of a product by cross-referencing its barcode with a growing number of halal-certified manufacturers. Visitors to Japan will be able to use this technology to ascertain whether the products they find on shelves are suitable for their needs.
Verify Halal is produced by Serunai Commerce, a Kuala Lumpur firm set up to create the world’s first global halal data pool and supported by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM). As a Serunai stakeholder, JAKIM will be one of the public bodies represented on the committee.
“Our ASEAN neighbours are really taking steps to move their businesses forward. They are talking about how to digitalise their micro-enterprises—not just SMEs—and even mom and pop shops. If we don’t change, we will be left out,” Norazman said at the launch.
“We all recognise digitalisation as a key enabler in improving the way we do business.”
The promotion committee also intends to look beyond the Tokyo Olympic to future editions of the Games, he said.
“If Malaysia manages to help Japan, and [Tokyo 2020] is seen as the first halal-compliant Olympic Games, then we will look… to successive Olympics where Malaysian halal products will be given preference,” he said.
“We hope [everybody] will take this opportunity to take part in this initiative that has been launched in collaboration with our private sector partners.”
(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim firstname.lastname@example.org)
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