Turkey can be one of the key players in the global market for halal products -- goods made according to Muslim standards -- if the country adjusts its food legislation, the head of a leading local business association said on Monday.
"We believe that when the problem of legislation -- one of the problems of the halal food sector -- is solved, our country will be one of the key actors in the global halal market," Hasan Ali Cesur, head of the Anatolian Businessmen's Association (ASKON), told the 9th Halal and Tayyib Products Conference in Istanbul.
The halal food market in Turkey is now worth $6 billion annually, and this could rise to $15-20 billion within a decade, he said.
Turkey will catch up with Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, the leaders in the global halal food market, Cesur added.
"Halal production should be treated as a responsibility, not a commercial concern," said Ali Saleh al-Omair, Kuwait's former oil minister, addressing the conference.
"Because it is our responsibility to Allah to make the food we eat clean."
He said Muslims lack a common understanding of halal food production, and the conference is important in this respect.
'Not just about money'
Through such conferences, participants can present work on halal food to Muslims around the world, said Huseyin Kami Büyüközer, head of the Association for the Inspection and Certification of Food and Supplies (GIMDES), a halal trade group.
He emphasized that the conference is not solely aimed at making money.
Halal products are available in a variety of areas, from food to cosmetics and cleaning products, said Günay Kaya, head of Trade Union of Agriculture and Forest Civil Servants Association.
"Our sensitivity to halal and haram" -- meaning permissible/forbidden -- "is not only a problem of Turks, or Arabs or a single nation, but of the entire Islamic world. Because we are one umma" or community, said Sheikh Thafier Najjaar, head of the Islamic Council of South Africa.
According to Dr. Hani Al-Mazeedi from the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, a halal way of eating can be achieved through strict practices.
"Alternative halal products for haram products can be produced. Muslim consumers should not fully trust the halal understanding of official audit institutions. They must trust themselves," he said.
"Muslim scholars should provide an opinion on halal and haram issues. Accreditation agencies should focus not only on the requirements of quality management systems, but also on the law," he added.
Turkey proposes legislation on halal
Representatives from 44 countries are attending the two-day conference.
On Oct. 11, Turkey's government submitted a bill to parliament for establishing a halal accreditation agency.
Under the bill, the agency will have the sole authority for halal product certification and accreditation in Turkey. It will also be able to establish offices abroad.
It would also accredit Turkish and foreign institutions that grant certificates of halal compliance.
Turkey's Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci last week also highlighted opportunities for Turkey in the international halal market.
"There is a halal market in the world whether we get into it or not. There will also be agencies that will define the standards under which products are halal, and will give [halal] certificates," he said.
He added that halal rules cover not just food, but cosmetics, textiles, finance, supply chains, and insurance as well.
Halal accreditation agencies enforce halal standards according to Islam in their countries and territories. They also aim to protect the growing number of halal consumers and facilitate international trade.
Global trade in halal products and services is valued at around $3.9 trillion.