KUANTAN, JANUARY 04, 2013 :The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), Malaysia today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ningxia Light and Textile Industrial Bureau (NLTIB) of The People’s Republic of China to mutually explore, collaborate and create investment opportunities in the international halal industry.

The NLTIB is the regional authority entrusted with the socio-economic development, oversight and monitoring of the various industries of the Ningxia Autonomous Region located in north-central China. The province has a large concentration of Muslims, and has been designated as the production centre of halal manufacturing food products by the Chinese Government.

The scope of the ECERDC-NLTIB cooperation will cover manufacturing, business matching, halal certification, warehousing & logistics, information sharing policies and research & development. Halal industries targeted are processed food and beverages, halal meat, dairy, biological products, grain and edible oils, condiments, snacks, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, healthcare products and Muslim garments.

Pahang Menteri Besar YAB Dato’ Sri DiRaja Haji Adnan bin Haji Yaakob said the collaboration will give a tremendous boost to Pahang’s halal park developed by ECER.

“The state of Pahang is well positioned to step up the development of the halal industry, especially since the focus is on agricultural produce and agro-based products. Pahang has vast tracts of commercial agriculture and smallholdings that can benefit from the demand these halal industries are likely to create. Ultimately, they will contribute towards job creation, entrepreneur development and poverty eradication in the community.”

Describing the MOU as an example of the new model of cooperation in the international halal industry, ECERDC Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said, “Global demand for halal products is growing rapidly, and according to the World Fair Trade Organisation, the global halal market is estimated to grow at USD2.13 trillion annually.

“There is now an international halal superhighway facilitating the cross-border flow of products and services that have a halal lineage. The MOU will boost bilateral trade between Malaysia and China and enable ECER and Ningxia Province to strengthen our respective positions along this lucrative highway.”

Malaysia, which aspires to be a global halal hub, has emerged as one of the leading players in the halal economy. In 2011, the export value of halal products was RM35.4bil or 5.1% of total exports.

ECER has started to leverage on its locational advantage to enhance its share of Malaysia’s robust halal industry. Investments, both domestic direct and foreign direct, are the key and ECER has grown to become an investment destination of choice. Between 2007 and 2012, it attracted a staggering RM37 billion in investments, with RM12 billion committed in 2012. This is a historical high for the region, and it surpassed the original investment target of RM10 billion for the year. Of committed investments in 2012, 27% was for tourism, 37.5% for logistics, 16.8% for manufacturing, 10.4% for property development and 8.3% for agriculture.

Meanwhile, in China, the halal food industry is rapidly developing to cater to the needs of the 20 million Muslims in the country. In addition, China is keen to increase its share of halal markets. Ningxia Province, which has the smaller gross domestic product in China, is committed to building itself up into an open inland economy in China’s west. One of the three focus areas is to enhance halal food manufacture and related services.

After signing the MOU, the 7-member Chinese delegation led by Mr. Wang Jing, the Director General of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Bureau of Investment Promotion is scheduled to visit the 200-acre Gambang Halal Park in the ECER Special Economic Zone, a belt of high impact industries that will serve to catalyse and propel growth in the region.

“Dedicated halal parks are the cornerstone for the integrity and traceability of halal manufacturing operations. In ECER, there are three halal industrial parks, and we are well-positioned to share our knowledge and expertise in the planning and development of successful halal parks,” said Dato’ Issace. The MOU also provides for an exchange of development blueprints and the layout of identified industrial parks as well as the extension of investment incentives and preferential policies to qualified investors.

The collaboration between ECERDC and NLTIB follows on the heels of a previous collaboration between China and Malaysia for the Malaysia China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP).

The MCKIP was proposed as a sister park by YAB Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak last April in response to the Qinzhou Industrial Park which was announced by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Through the signing of the ECERDC-NLTIB MOU, the halal food and non-food sectors will be promoted at Gambang Halal Park and also at the 685-hectare MCKIP which will be launched in the first quarter of 2013.

The infrastructure-ready Gambang Halal Park carries the internationally-recognised HALMAS accreditation, a mark of excellence awarded by Malaysia’s Halal Development Corporation (HDC) to parks that manufacture halal products according to certified standards of quality, integrity and safety. Earmarked for the production of food and beverage ingredients, snacks, spices, herbs, sauces and agro-based products, Gambang Halal Park is ideal for export-oriented investors.

The park is part of a seamless and cost-competitive halal supply chain – from manufacture to warehousing, transport and logistics. Manufacturing operations are well-supported by related services, common infrastructure and amenities. Gambang Halal Park also has an incubator centre for industrial micro-traditional and specialty food processors.

Raw materials for food production and agro-based industries can be sourced locally from the agricultural areas that surround the park. Agricultural lands are connected by a network of road to convey raw materials to factories. Gambang Halal Park is also well-positioned to take advantage of the abundance of oil palm by-products (oleo-chemicals) for industries that specialize in the cosmetics and personal care products.

Another attraction is its proximity to Kuantan Port, about 30 km away, currently being expanded into a deep water port, capable of handling super vessels of up to 200,000 DWT. This port is a strategic investment gateway to the markets of ASEAN, the Asia Pacific and the Far East that has a population of four billion and a combined GDP of USD17 trillion and with a halal market worth approximately USD420 billion.