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Halal Industry

The ‘Brexit’ effect: How has it influenced UK's halal meat market?

The UK officially left the European Union in 2020. Four years on, how has the departure impacted the country's halal meat market?

Challenges across the UK’s halal meat market have compounded in the wake of the country’s departure from the European Union (EU) in 2020 – widely known as Brexit. 

Increased supply chain disruption, a regulatory divergence with the EU and lack of a clear policy from the top are a few of the difficulties facing the UK’s halal meat sector. 

However, despite challenges, positive indicators allude to the opportunities and potential growth of the space. 

Firstly, Muslims are a sizeable consumer force, accounting for 6.5% of all people living across England and Wales in 2021, according to the census 2021 data. Muslims grew substantially in the past decade, up from 2.7 million in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2021. 

Additionally, the UK’s halal meat and poultry sector is a lucrative one, which - at slaughter - is valued at around £1.7 billion, according to a report by the Halal Monitoring Committee (HMC) and the University of Huddersfield. The market is projected to swell to almost £2 billion by 2028, according to the report.

“The UK halal market will continue a positive trajectory due to population growth and high disposable income of the younger Muslim consumer,” Awal Fuseini, one of the report’s authors and halal sector senior manager at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) told Salaam Gateway. 

“Consumer habits are however changing, so meat processors need to develop new products to suit the lifestyles of the younger, more adventurous halal consumer.”

Supply chain disruption

Among other things, Brexit has prompted an increase in bureaucracy and customs, which unfortunately, impacts the entire supply chain. This results in unnecessary confusion, and delays and costs for exporters, distributors as well as importers.

‘Prior to Brexit, there were no delays, checks or certification required and all that was needed was a delivery note,” explains Peter Hardwick, trade policy adviser for the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA). 

“Before Brexit it was the same to deliver goods to Birmingham and Berlin; in fact, you could do it on the same vehicle. Now it is as complicated to deliver meat to the EU as it is to deliver it to Canada.”

The UK held a referendum on its EU membership in June 2016, in which it voted to leave the world’s largest trade bloc. The country officially exited the EU, its biggest trade partner, in January 2020. 

The Brexit agreement meant new rules would govern how the UK and EU would trade with each other. However, four years later, manufacturers and other key stakeholders continue to grapple with key challenges. 

For example, UK meat exporters must – post Brexit - also ensure they have the requisite paperwork in place. Among them is an export health certificate (EHC) - an official document that confirms that the product meets the health requirements of the destination country. Previously this was applicable on exports to non-EU countries only.

Trade is more difficult now, whether export or import, says Rizvan Khalid, managing director at Euro Quality Lambs, a UK-based lamb supplier. 

“There is no opportunity as a result of Brexit that I can think of. It has stopped the export of smaller producers, so that benefits bigger producers like us - that's the one benefit for large traders, not necessarily the consumers,” 

Regulatory divergence with the EU

Despite its exit from the EU, the vast majority of the UK’s meat exports continue to go to the trade bloc. This has promoted the country to recalibrate its processes to adhere to the new requirements.

If British exporters want to export to the EU, says Hardwick, they must fully comply with EU rules, even if the UK rules are different.

“Because some parts of almost all sheep and cattle are exported to the EU, especially offal, the entire supply chain must comply. All that divergence is doing is forcing processors and farmers to actually diverge from, in general, less strict UK rules in order to comply with, on the whole, stricter EU rules or risk losing the ability to export,” he says.

“Above all, as we diverge, we will have to give the EU more guarantees that we meet their rules.”

This has already happened with a new requirement that came into effect at the end of last year where vets have to produce an attestation that each farm meets all of the EU’s biosecurity requirements, adds Hardwick. 

Brexit piles challenges on existing issues 

Brexit has augmented existing domestic challenges rife across the country’s halal meat industry. These include the authenticity of halal certification and the debate as to whether stunning animals at slaughter is permissible.

“Some stunning methods [are] not acceptable for halal, such as captive bolt for cattle or gassing for poultry”, says Khalid.  

“Some suppliers market them as halal using certifiers who are not transparent in what they certify. This causes confusion in the market and makes consumers suspicious of all meat traders, even the genuine ones.”

Other challenges include nurturing a new generation of farmers that is expected to take over in the future.

“Demand for halal meat is growing but livestock supply is not keeping up,” adds Khalid. 

“There are fewer farmers, and are older with little succession plans so getting enough supply to keep up with the religious festivals of Ramadan and Qurbani [Eid ul Adha sacrifice] is a challenge.”

Incoherent government policy

The absence of a clear government policy covering meat, and by extension halal meat, also presents a challenge. Stakeholders argue that this makes it difficult for meat producers and exporters to ensure their end product is halal. 

The UK government does not have a coherent policy on halal meat unlike Australia or New Zealand which have championed national halal marks, adds Khalid.

“Even Canada has issued legislation to tighten up the marketing of halal - any halal claims must be accompanied by the name/brand of the halal certifier which increased transparency and trust. The UK in contrast is missing opportunities by not nurturing the development of the halal market,” he notes.  

Type of fraud Description Example
Misrepresentation Selling a product as something that it is not Selling mutton and describing it as lamb or selling meat from stunned animals as nonstunned and vice versa
Substitution Replacing all or part of a product with another substance of a similar kind without altering its overall characteristics Using mutton in lamb kebabs and describing it as lamb
Adulteration Rendering food poorer in quality by adding extraneous substances Beef sausages made with little or no beef
Source: Report by the UK's Halal Monitoring Committee and the University of Huddersfield


Lucrative trade deals could yield gains

As the UK advances to secure free trade agreements (FTA) with non-EU countries, it could leverage on its halal meat exports.

The UK is currently negotiating an FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a bloc of six Muslim majority countries, in what is expected to be a substantial economic opportunity for the country. 

Total UK-GCC trade stood at £59 billion, with the potential pact expected to open new opportunities for British halal meat exporters looking to diversify away from the EU.

“UK exporters have started looking closely at alternative halal markets, the Middle East being a prime example,” says Fuseini. “We have seen an appreciable increase in the value of halal meat exported to the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.”

But Hardwick cautions that UK’s legacy trade deals which it rolled over from leaving the EU -and the trade deals it made subsequently - have had little to no effect on exports and are unlikely to do so. 

“The UK’s greatest unique selling point is delivering fresh meat quickly and flexibly to near markets, specifically the EU, and in order to serve the distant markets covered by these trade deals, we will have to deliver frozen meat. Freezing adds costs and reduces value,” he adds.

Nonetheless, Fuseini is optimistic that the UK government is following up to take advantage.

“The government clearly recognises the importance of the halal sector, that is why we are seeing increased activities in the Middle East by the Department for Business and Trade,” he says. 

“Furthermore, the government appointed an agriculture counsellor for the Middle East, mandated to promote UK agri-products to the growing Muslim population.”


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Hassan Jivraj