Halal creates an opening for Thai firms in Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR : Thai food makers are being urged to enter the Malaysian market to capitalise on the neighbouring country's vision of becoming a global hub for halal food.
Petch Chinabutr, director of Thailand's National Food Institute (NFI), said that despite a population of just 30 million, Malaysia has a high per-capita income compared with other countries in the 10-member Asean group, ranking only behind Singapore and Brunei.
"Furthermore, the Malaysian government has a policy to turn the country into a global hub of halal products, and the country also has established free-trade deals with many partners, especially in the European Union, so this is a good opportunity for Thai businesses to penetrate this market," he said.
His comments were made on the sidelines of the 10th Malaysia International Halal Showcase. The NFI brought 10 Thai companies to showcase their halal-certified products at the event.
Ugrid Chitcharoentham, assistant export manager of General Candy Co, the maker of Heartbeat candy, said most of General's confectionery, fruit snacks and jelly are certified halal, with two more items on the way.
General exports 70% of what it makes, half of which goes to South Africa, Dubai, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait and Jordan. The company has begun shipping to Malaysia as well.
General makes some products especially for the Middle East markets, as some countries in the region have laws banning the use of food colouring.
Alak Pramernchamaen, director of Siamsurplus Co, has expressed interest in exporting her crispy fried salmon products to Malaysia since last year.
Under the brand SeaRun, the product is sold in 700 7-Eleven stores in the southern region of Thailand. Still, 70% of production goes to mom-and-pop stores and street vendors.
This year, the company expects to produce 200,000 packets a month, up from 100,000 a month last year, 50,000 in 2011 and 20,000 the year before.
Sarif Lohhama, manager of Budu Yiseng (Saiburi Pattani) Ltd, sends most of his instant khao yam sets to Malaysia.
Called nasi kerabu in Malaysia, khao yam consists of rice, budu fish sauce and vegetables.
The company, which has made and exported food for five years, ships 20% of its production to Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Revenue per year is 45 million baht, with 14 million baht in profit.
Last year, Malaysia was Thailand's sixth-biggest export destination and eighth-biggest import source. Exports to Malaysia totalled 33.7 billion baht, with imports reaching 14 billion baht.