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Is Turkey poised to become the world’s halal food hub?

As a majority Muslim country, halal products comprise one of Turkey’s thriving food sectors. Domestic and regional demand for halal goods is expected to skyrocket in the coming years – so does Turkey have what it takes to become a major hub for this rapidly expanding food industry?

Consumption of halal meat in Turkey is already a booming business. In 2015, the market held a valuation of $168 billion. Turkish consumers’ activity accounts for a large chunk of global halal food consumption, which has a market value worth close to $632 billion. 98% of Turkey’s population identifies as Muslim, essentially ensuring a captive market for halal producers. 

According to Turkey’s Minister of Customs and Trade, Nurettin Canikli, the halal food industry is worth close to $1 trillion worldwide. Of this vast total, Turkey contributes around 10%. According to the 2015 edition of Thomson Reuters’ State of the Global Islamic Economy report, the Islamic world is expected to spend some $2.5 billion on halal food by 2019. Predictions from the same report suggest that Muslims worldwide could spend up to 10.8% more on halal food and associated products across the same period.

What does this mean in practical terms? For meat suppliers, it points toward some huge opportunities. It is somewhat of a misconception to suggest that Muslim-majority countries meet most of their meat demands via domestic production. However, this isn’t the case. 

Turkey is an active member of the 57-state strong Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Of all the meat and live animals imported by OIC countries, a huge 85% is supplied by non-OIC states. While specialist preparation procedures are required to ensure meat can be classified as halal, Turkey relies on meat imports to satiate its population’s needs. A lucrative gap is there – and demand is predicted to grow healthily over the coming years. 

It is hard to overstate the importance of Turkey’s geographical location with regards to food trade. The country bridges Europe and Asia, acting as a crucial destination for cross-continental logistics and transport. For the halal sector, however, Turkey is even more important for transport and logistics.

Turkey is flanked on all sides by multiple Muslim majority countries, including those situated in Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. Roughly 1.2 billion people live and work in the region. The greater number of Turkey’s neighbours are also members of the OIC. Essentially, this suggests that meat producers and halal food distributors are provided with the ultimate export hub in Turkey. 

A major challenge facing the global halal food industry is the bewildering number of regulations, varying quality standards and certification processes across the OIC. Mr Canikli, speaking at the 2015 World Halal Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, stressed the need for creating a worldwide standard to ensure halal food security remains strong across the Muslim community.

Indeed, Turkey is at the forefront of creating international halal food inspection techniques. Researchers at the Marmara Research Centre of the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has developed a rapid test to detect pork contamination in halal-labelled produce. The five minute test is expected to be spread among the general populous, placing food security into the hands of the consumer. 

Societal factors are also playing their part in making Turkey even more attractive for halal suppliers. A young, increasingly urbanised population is fuelling an increased desire for ready-to-eat (RTE) halal products. A new generation of Muslims has grown up with fast food and seeks offerings that provide the same gratification – providing another market for Halal meat suppliers to explore.

Economically, many young Turks are enjoying greater purchasing power. Meat, which was once a treat for special occasions, is seeing an increase in affordability across the Islamic world. Turkey is no exception.

A number of vital factors, including increased meat consumption, a growing, economically independent consumer base and changing market composition, is cementing Turkey’s position has a international halal hub. Opportunities abound for smart investors in the halal sector. And, as the industry expands rapidly worldwide, they are only set to grow.


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