The global halal industry knows a lot about Malaysia’s JAKIM, Indonesia’s BPJPH and MUI, and other important halal gatekeepers such as Muslim World League and SFDA in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE’s ESMA. Singapore is unique in this scenario as it is not a Muslim-majority country but has national halal standards and certification upheld and implemented by government body the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS). An agency linked to MUIS is now making a push to offer its halal expertise and services abroad, banking on Singapore’s halal standards and international reputation for good governance.
This Q&A is with Warees Halal Limited’s CEO Dewi Hartaty Suratty.
Q1. Warees Halal Limited is the only agency authorised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) to provide halal capacity building programmes and international certification based on the Singapore MUIS Halal Quality Management System. Does this mean there are no other such bodies in Singapore and Warees has the monopoly in providing these services?
Warees Halal Limited (WHL) conducts international certification and certification-related training programmes based on the Singapore MUIS Halal Standards. The auditors and trainers involved are officers within the MUIS Group – either Warees Halal or MUIS halal officers themselves.
In Singapore, there are other training providers which offer halal-related programmes on topics such as product development, marketing, export of halal products, etc. Beyond those issued by Warees Halal, MUIS also recognises several foreign halal certification bodies that endorse products exported to Singapore.
Q2. In December, Warees announced it was working with Japanese firm JTB on halal-related food and tourism services. How much of Warees’ client portfolio is outside of Singapore?
Warees Halal’s entire client portfolio for halal certification operates outside Singapore, with the company providing the service based on the Singapore MUIS Halal Standards.
3. Apart from JTB, which other foreign companies or institutions does Warees work with?
We appoint several other foreign organisations to facilitate our work in providing halal certification services outside of Singapore and JTB is one of our strategic partners. Among others, this service is to help foreign companies certify their products for exports to Singapore and beyond. WHL plays a technical role by conducting training, audits and issue halal certificates. Our partners act as the bridge between WHL and its prospective clients.
4. What regions is Warees focused on to provide your services?
Apart from Singapore, we provide services in East Asia (e.g. China, Korea, Japan) and Europe (e.g. Italy, Belgium).
5. Singapore is a small halal market, surrounded by comparatively giant halal leaders Indonesia and Malaysia, each of which have very strong halal certification and advisory services offerings and portfolios. What is Singapore-based Warees’ competitive advantage?
The raison d'être of Warees Halal is to support MUIS in implementing the Singapore MUIS Halal standards and to benefit the Muslim community. Whilst MUIS acts as the regulator in Singapore, we play the role of an “industry enabler” by providing our services in building companies’ relevant capabilities.
Our competitive advantage lies in our ability to do so effectively as our officers are equipped with vast knowledge on halal food industry and certification.
Our presence in overseas markets such as China also allows Singapore companies to diversify their product sources and as a result, provides the Muslim community with access to a wider range of halal-certified goods. Given that Singapore imports 90% of its food, our role in international certification can contribute towards ensuring a sustainable supply of halal food for Muslims residing in and travelling to Singapore.
As a government-linked company, Warees Halal subscribes to the Singapore MUIS Halal Standards in providing certification. The MUIS standards are widely recognised and applicable in the context of Muslim-minority countries. We believe that these factors can appeal to foreign food manufacturers, many of which are operating in non-Muslim countries. All in all, our experience and expertise place us as an ideal partner for both local and foreign companies.
6. Singapore is a non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) country and hence is not a party to the OIC’s Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC). MUIS, does, however, participate in the global agenda, for example through the Malaysia-driven International Halal Authority Board (IHAB). How does Warees contribute to global halal discussions that address key challenges and issues faced by the industry?
As an industry enabler, we work closely with MUIS to provide a platform and opportunities for industry players such as government agencies, trade associations and businesses to share their views, best practices and participate in networking activities. One of such initiatives is the inaugural Halal Theatre that Warees Halal is organising alongside FHA-Food & Beverage, which will bring together food and beverage manufacturers, Halal certification bodies, trade promotion organisations and companies in the F&B ecosystem.
7. Away from the global gaze, how does Warees work at home in Singapore to develop the domestic halal industry?
In Singapore, Warees Halal provides capacity building programmes to companies in the form of classroom and online-based training, workshops, seminars, etc.
In order to build a sustainable halal ecosystem in Singapore, we believe that everyone plays a key role, whether you’re working as a production worker, a quality manager or a business owner. Therefore, our mission is to develop a pool of competent halal professionals who can work hand-in-hand with MUIS to maintain halal standards and ensure trust and confidence in the Singapore halal regime.
8. Singapore is widely admired, outside the country, as an affluent, efficient, “first-world” nation with high levels of governance. How does Warees reflect the positive traits and characteristics of the wider Singapore political, business, and economic environment?
Warees Halal is corporatised as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and we are driven by a desire to ensure that whatever we do benefits Singapore – to ensure a sustainable halal industry that will benefit local companies and Singaporeans as a whole.
In addition, government bodies are also dedicated to promoting and encouraging local companies to expand globally. Warees Halal plays a role in facilitating their efforts by providing guidance to local companies on the key considerations they need to take note of when entering / exporting to a foreign halal market as well as by creating trade-links with potential partners overseas.
9. How does Warees leverage its Singaporean-ness to push ahead in the global halal industry and indeed, Islamic economy?
The Singapore MUIS Halal Standards, which Warees Halal adheres to, are well-established and recognised globally. Through Singapore’s reputation for competence and integrity, we have been able to build credibility and trust towards our activities and expertise on the international stage. We also work closely with government agencies such as Enterprise Singapore to ensure that our activities are aligned to their strategic agenda in a coordinated fashion.
10. What can we expect from Warees in 2020?
In 2020, we hope to expand the range of our training programmes to meet the varied needs of halal industry players. We will also work towards strengthening our collaborative initiatives with various partners to bring benefits to companies in the halal industry. More details on this will be revealed at the Halal Theatre taking place at FHA-Food & Beverage from 31 March to 3 April 2020.
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