Photo: A woman serves her customers as they buy food for iftar at Ramadan, at a food market in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta
Fri June 16, 2017 | 5:53pm | JAKARTA
The government must speed up its work of finalising the decree for the launch of the national halal certification body, the House of Representative’s social and religious affairs commission chairman Ali Taher Parasong told Salaam Gateway.
“The launch of the Halal Products Certification Agency (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Produk Halal, BPJPH) depends on the government timeline to finish the decree,” said Parasong.
The government decree for the launch of the BPJPH was expected to be finalised in December 2016 after the ministerial decree for its establishment was signed in October of the same year.
According to Parasong, the delay is due to the need to align issues such as registration fees and operations with technical teams from the ministries of health, trade, and industry, as well as the Indonesia Ulama Council’s Food and Drug Analysis Agency (LPPOM MUI).
The religious affairs ministry’s head of halal products sub-directorate, Siti Aminah, told Salaam Gateway at the end of January the draft government decree would take “no longer than two to four weeks” to be finalised as discussions were ongoing on issues including tariffs, standardisation of halal audit agencies, and mandatory
halal labelling by the end of 2019.
“Technically, BPJPH will be established directly under the Ministry of Religious Affairs and will cooperate with halal audit agencies,” said Parasong.
The religious affairs ministry will work with LPPOM MUI until other halal audit agencies are established. LPPOM MUI has been Indonesia’s only national-level halal certifier and auditor since 1998.
“The most important thing is that the religious affairs ministry should be able to manage the laboratories where research of thousands of food and ingredients takes place,” added Parasong.
The House of Representatives has given the government until October to finalise the decree.
That is also when Indonesia’s president is scheduled to name the chairman of BPJPH and kickstart the body’s operations.
Addressing opposition to Indonesia’s Law No 33 of 2014 for the mandatory halal labelling of all halal products by the end of 2019, Parasong said he “regrets” the judicial review 5/PUU-XV/ 2017 in January filed by lawyer Paustinus Siburian.
Siburian argued that the law contradicts with constitution (UUD 1945) articles 28E and 29 that guarantee the rights of
citizens to freely embrace and practise the religion of their choice and that the state guarantees these rights for them.
“2014 Halal Product Guarantee law (Jaminan Produk Halal, JPH) aims to give comfort and the sense of security for Muslim consumers,” said Parasong.
Siburian also argued that the Islamic principle mentioned in the Halal Product Guarantee law must be clearly explained.
“In article 10 it is said that BPJPH will cooperate with MUI in terms of halal auditors certification, products halal status and accreditation of halal audit agencies," said Parasong.
"It’s a shame that society has misinterpreted it,” he added.
The MUI is Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body that was established by the government to act as the Muslim community’s representative to the secular government.
Parasong believes the government and its officials may not have done enough to educate the public on the Halal Product Guarantee law.
“Maybe it’s also because we have not raised enough awareness of the law for the public,” he said.
To prevent any further misunderstanding members of the House of Representatives will carry out a “halal goes to campus” campaign in their own regions, targeting students in tertiary institutions, said Parasong.
HALAL CERTIFICATION CHALLENGES
Adhi Lukman, the general chairman of the Indonesian Food and Beverage Association (GAPMMI), told Salaam Gateway that BPJPH will have its hands full with the work needed to halal certify products from small and medium-sized businesses.
Lukman estimates that only 30 percent of 1.6 million food and beverage SMEs are halal-certified.
“During 2011-2015, Indonesia Ulama Council’s Food and Drug Analysis Agency (LPPOM MUI) certified 33,000 products or only 6,700 products per year. There are currently 1.6 million SMEs and 6,000 big companies and not all them already hold halal certificates,” said Lukman.
He reiterated the question of affordability of gaining halal certification, especially for SMEs.
“If there are no fee subsidies, it will become a bottleneck for LPPOM MUI,” he told Salaam Gateway.
The draft government decree for the BPJPH states that SME halal product registration fees can be subsidised from both the state budget and big companies.
The ministry of religious affairs told Salaam Gateway in November that to make certification affordable it was preparing funding options from three specific channels: the state budget, big companies in the halal sector to subsidise SMEs application and social finance, such as zakat and sadaqat.
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