While China is not considered a major halal food manufacturing hub, halal food and drinks production has witnessed great growth in China. In this article, we introduce what is Halal, the motives for a business to get a halal certification, and the procedures to get a halal certification in China.
Halal, or ‘permitted’ in Arabic and ‘Qingzhen’ (清真) in Chinese, defines the suitability of a particular product for consumption under Islamic law, the Shariah. Halal products should be compliant with guidelines for purity and hygiene and should not contain any derivatives of pork (which may be present in gelatin and emulsifiers) or alcohol. In the case of meat products, animals must be slaughtered according to procedures under Islamic law.
Internationally, halal is not limited to food products and is applicable to all kind of consumer goods and services, including food, cosmetics, banking and finance, travel, and pharmaceutical, among others.
But in China, halal only applies to foods of meat, milk, and edible oil. It is forbidden to “expand the concept of halal to other fields outside the field of halal food“.
A halal certification for the product will assure customers that it is compliant with halal requirements and will help to expand the consumer base.
On the one hand, the Muslim population only eat halal food and prefer buying products with halal certification. On other hand, non-Muslim consumers are not excluded from halal products. For certain products, such as milk, it is well accepted that those with halal certification represent a higher quality standard.
As of 2022, there are approximately two billion Muslims in the world, accounting for 25 percent of the world population. In China, the Muslim population is estimated to reach 28 million by 2022, similar to the Muslim population size in Europe.
Most of the top 10 countries with the largest number of Muslims maintain close trade relations with China and import heavily from China – Indonesia (231,000,000), Pakistan (212,300,000), India (200,000,000), Bangladesh (153,700,000), Nigeria (95,000,000–103,000,000), Egypt (85,000,000–90,000,000), Iran (82,500,000), Turkey (74,432,725), Algeria (41,240,913), and Sudan (39,585,777).
It is estimated that the global market size for halal products could be at the multi-trillion-dollar level. The global halal food market size is expected to grow from US$1134.14 billion in 2021 to US$2228.63 billion in 2026.
The huge market potential is the primary motivation that drives businesses to obtain a halal certificate, especially for businesses in some given sectors and export-oriented businesses that sell to markets with a large Muslim population.
By far there are at least 18 Chinese dairy enterprises that have obtained halal certifications, including YiLi Group, Mengniu Dairy, Junlebao, Sanyuan, etc.
Currently, China has no unified national standard for halal certification. Businesses can apply to the local Islam organization (伊斯兰教协会) based on local standards.
Besides, those who want to engage in the production and sale of halal food in the domestic market need to apply for a Halal Food License (清真食品准营证) from the local bureau of ethnic and religious affairs (民族宗教事务局), while the local halal food management office (清真食品管理办公室) will be responsible for verifying if the applicants comply with relevant qualifications.
Again, there is no national regulation on this. Rather, the qualification and procedure for obtain a Halal Food License are stipulated in various local regulations.
In most local regulations, the qualifications for applying for the Halal Food License are just in general terms, which mainly include:
In practice, it can be expected that there is some discretionary scope for the office and bureau in charge to decide whether the applicant is qualified to get the license or not.
Upon obtaining the Halal Food License, the business can use “Qingzhen” label in their business premise and on their products. The license is usually valid for two to five years, up to the local regulation.
The license obtained in one city is generally recognized in other Chinese cities. However, when selling products to other countries, the business must learn the halal certification requirements of the target market and apply for halal certifications from relevant recognized organizations accordingly.
For example, according to relevant rules, the Indonesian government only recognizes halal certificate organizations that operates in the same jurisdiction with the halal certificate applicant. That is to say, non-Chinese halal certificate organizations cannot issue halal certificates to Chinese companies. Currently, the Asia Pacific Halal Council (APHC-Halal) is the only organization that is recognized by the Indonesia government.
As mentioned above, in China, halal only applies to foods of meat, milk, and edible oil. It is forbidden to expand the concept of halal to other fields outside the field of halal food.
Besides, the word “halal” or “Qingzhen” shall not be printed on the packaging of non-halal food. To be able to use “Qingzhen” on the product, advertisement, and marketing materials, the business must obtain relevant halal certification, or else it could be deemed as a fake product, according to the Product Quality Law of the People’s Republic of China.
For more information about food labelling and product certification in China, please subscribe to our China Weekly Briefing or contact us at China@dezshira.com
China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done so since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dezan Shira & Associates has offices in Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, United States, Germany, Italy, India, and Russia, in addition to our trade research facilities along the Belt & Road Initiative. We also have partner firms assisting foreign investors in The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh.
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