Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Halal Industry

Why Thailand is poised to become a halal food powerhouse 

Thailand is emerging as a competitive force in the global halal food marketplace as it looks to capture a slice of the booming sector.

With more than 160,000 halal-certified products, the country aims to position itself as a regional halal hub over the next four years, capitalizing on its proximity to Southeast Asia’s Muslim-majority countries as well as increasing its food exports to the Middle East.

“Under the current government, the Ministry of Industry’s Office of Industrial Economics has set a new strategy with the vision of raising the Thai halal industry to be ASEAN’s halal hub by 2028,” Dr. Winai Dahlan, director of the Halal Science Center of Chulalongkorn University tells Salaam Gateway.

To achieve this vision, the Office of Industrial Economics intends to develop the local halal industry to ensure it has the highest quality and standards as well as to reduce limitations and amend regulations for halal accreditation, says Dahlan.

The Halal Science Centre is a government-funded facility that plays a pivotal role in developing halal standardization systems in Thailand.

In early 2024, the Thai Cabinet established the National Halal Industry Committee to steer the development of the halal food sector and the Thai Halal Industry Centre to promote local food products internationally.

These efforts are a part of a broader strategy to develop and promote various halal products and services, including fashion and tourism, as well as to develop a halal economic corridor across the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Satun, and parts of Songkhla. The plan is expected to bolster GDP by 1.2% by 2028, while creating an estimated 100,000 jobs annually.

Thailand's halal outlook
Around 64,000 Thai companies
have had their food products halal-certified
There are over 160,000 products with halal certification Certified by the Central Islamic Council of Thailand
Source: Department of International Trade Promotion 

Trade promotion

Despite being a predominantly Buddhist country where Muslims make up only 5.8% of the population, Thailand has taken strategic initiatives to expand its halal food sector and is running intensive trade promotion campaigns to pursue opportunities in promising markets.

“The halal food sector is a large market where consumers have high purchasing power. It accounts for a global market value of approximately $1.2 trillion,” Phusit Ratanakul Sereroengrit, director-general of Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), tells Salaam Gateway.

“DITP has implemented various projects to enhance the potential of Thai halal products in international markets, including branding of such products and promoting their exports to targeted countries.”

DITP operates under the country’s Ministry of Commerce.

For example, the Thailand pavilion at the Gulfood exhibition, that took place in Dubai in February, saw the participation of 134 companies, with trade negotiations reaching a total value of $207.6 million, according to Ministry of Commerce data. These include immediate orders of about $9.2 million. 

Next on DITP’s agenda is to promote Thailand’s halal food products at the upcoming Thaifex 2024, one of Asia’s biggest F&B industry events, as well as among overseas stores and importers, with meetings planned in key cities of Chicago (US), and Doha (Qatar) next month. 

As the main promoter of Thai exports, DITP has also been organizing business matching and trade negotiation activities for halal F&B products. 

Following a series of such meetings in the MENA region in April 2024 - which brought together 10 foreign importers and 21 Thai exporters resulting in a total order value of $25.9 million - DITP has scheduled similar events for Southeast Asia in July, and for East Asia and South Asia in September.

“The Muslim market in ASEAN is massive, and Thailand has significant advantage in logistics and a variety of products that cater to the needs of this consumer segment,” says Sereroengrit.

“With the efforts of the Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT) and the institutions that inspect and certify various halal standards in accordance with Islamic provisions, halal products have become one of Thailand’s key export sectors and have earned trust among global consumers for their quality and standards.”

Thailand’s free economic system which enables fair competition and is based on open market mechanisms, has also allowed the private sector to contribute to the growth of the halal food sector.

“The state is responsible for controlling and preventing the creation of advantages and disadvantages for any one or group of businesses, and for stimulating competition in price, quality, and style of products. It plays a small role in setting the direction for the country's industrial development,” explains Dahlan.

The halal business case is moving in the same direction, he adds.

“The rapid growth of halal food in Thailand is therefore the work of the private sector – either through agricultural or industrial production; the service sector and the Islamic organization sector in order to ensure the halalness of products. The state only provides support in various fields, including halal science and technology work carried out under state universities,” adds Dahlan.

Giant leap in halal exports

As a result of the government’s support of the industry and the private sector’s efforts, Thailand’s halal food exports have seen a 24-fold increase over the past two decades, with the lion’s share going to the 57 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries, says Dahlan.

Thailand’s exports of halal F&B products to OIC countries amounted to $6.2 million in 2023, a 5.3% increase year-on-year, according to Ministry of Commerce data. The exported goods included rice (35%), sugar (22%), canned and processed seafood (10%), cassava products (4.3%), wheats and ready-to-eat products (3.4%), and fresh and frozen chicken (3.4%).

The export figure is expected to grow by 3% in 2024 to reach $6.4 million.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, the UAE, and Mozambique accounted for nearly 76% of Thailand’s total halal food exports to OIC countries in 2023. 

However, the country plans to diversify its halal food export markets. Alongside OIC countries, it is eyeing non-Muslim majority countries with large Muslim populations, such as India, China, Russia, the US, and the UK, as well as countries that receive large numbers of Muslim tourists, such as Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Halal compliance

A distinctive feature of Thailand's commitment to the halal industry lies in its compliance with international standards. This commitment led to the acceptance of Thailand as a member of OIC’s Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) in 2017, positioning it as the first non-Muslim nation to be accredited as a participant of the OIC/SMIIC.

Additionally, CICOT - the government organization responsible for issuing Thailand’s halal certification mark - requires businesses that have never held a halal certificate to first undergo training with the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand before applying for certification.

In a step forward for the country’s halal food industry, CICOT received an accreditation from the Saudi Food and Drugs Authority in 2023 and the UAE’s Emirates International Accreditation Centre in 2024, enabling Thailand to export various halal goods to both Middle Eastern countries.

“Halal certification of products in Thailand is in accordance with The Administration of Islamic organizations Act B.E. 2540 (1997), which is under the authority of CICOT in collaboration with the Offices of Islamic Committee of Provinces (ICOP),” says Dahlan.

“As a result, there are 41 halal certification bodies in Thailand: one office of CICOT together with 40 offices of ICOP, with all parties agreeing on the use of the joint mark of halal certification. Around 160,000 products are halal certified and nearly 7,000 establishments and factories are using the joint mark.”

The Halal Science Center’s operations have also led to greater confidence in the safety of halal food products from Thailand. The center plays a major role in strengthening the industry through science and technology and assists other countries in analyzing food samples. 

Since its establishment in 2003, it has developed various innovations, such as the HAL-Q quality management system to integrate halal standards into food safety, and H-numbers – the world’s first database of chemicals used in the food industry. 

With the rapid growth of technology and its impact on the development of commercial businesses, the Halal Science Center is looking to apply Shariah-compliant blockchain, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing to its operations, with the goal of building greater trust in the halal economy, says Dahlan.

As Thailand continues to push forward with its strategy, including its plan to turn the Southern Economic Corridor into a hub for halal food, the country is poised to become a major force in the global halal market.


Halal food