KUANTAN, 15 JANUARY 2014:The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) received a Chinese trade and investment delegation from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China at its Pahang regional office here today. Led by the Director General of Ningxia Economic and Technological Cooperation Office, Mr Wang Jing, the delegation consists of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Government officials and business leaders from halal food-based industries. Their mission is to explore opportunities to invest in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) while promoting their products in Malaysia.

The itinerary of their 2-day trip to ECER includes visits to Gambang Halal Park and Bukit Gambang Sentoria City, call-on sessions with Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, YBhg. Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John as well as with Pahang State officials, and a networking session with the local business community.

The delegation is the outcome of a MoU signed between ECERDC and Ningxia Light and Textile Industrial Bureau (NLTIB) in Kuantan on 4 January 2013 to explore collaboration opportunities in halal industries, especially in the sectors of agriculture, pharmaceuticals and textiles. Within days of the MoU last year, ECERDC officials visited Ningxia to explore opportunities in textile industry there.

NLTIB is the regional authority entrusted with the socio-economic development, oversight and monitoring of the various industries of the Ningxia Hui 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.

ECERDC Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John said the trade & investment mission is a step towards realizing the potential for collaboration between ECERDC and NLTIB. “ECER can play a more prominent role in the development of the halal industry not only in Malaysia, but also in Ningxia,” he said. “We are rapidly commercialising ECER’s agricultural sector to ensure a stable supply of raw materials such as meat, fish and tropical fruits for halal food industries. The region also has a well-established oil palm plantation agriculture sector that ensures a continuous supply of oleo-chemical feedstock to support the manufacture of halal nutraceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products.

“Moreover, 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 industrial 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, agro-based products and healthcare products, Gambang Halal Park is ideal for export-oriented investors given its close proximity to Kuantan Port.”

Gambang Halal Park is located in the ECER Special Economic Zone, in the vicinity of the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park and Kuantan Port, which is being expanded to accommodate new generation cargo and container vessels by 2015. The industrial 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.

Dato’ Issace noted that global demand for halal products is growing rapidly, and according to the World Fair Trade Organisation, the global halal market is estimated to grow to USD2.13 trillion annually.

“There is an international halal superhighway facilitating the cross-border flow of products and services that have a halal lineage,” he said. “Our collaboration will boost bilateral trade between Malaysia and China and enables ECER and the 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. As of June 2013, Malaysia exported RM15.7 billion worth of halal products according to export statistics, making the country the biggest halal products exporter among the countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

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, 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 manufacturing and related services.

The ECERDC-NLTIB collaboration followed on the heels of the Malaysia China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) project that was announced in 2012, and launched in February 2013.