Ethiopia’s Halal products export earnings unable to reach its potential, says expert

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Ethiopia is garnering below its potential earnings from the export of halal products mainly to the Middle East countries, Binmelik Abdu, a food microbiologist said.

Binmelik presented his findings on a panel discussion during the Halal Food, Tourism Expo & Summit held at Sheraton Addis Hotel on Monday.

The expo and summit has been organized by Eatsafe Certification PLC focusing on “New Business Horizon— For Prosperous Ethiopia”.

Lists of halal certified products and services include beverages, foods, tourism and hospitality, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, among others.

Milk, oil seeds, fruits and vegetables and confectionary products also included in the list recently.

Ethiopia mostly exports halal meat to the Middle East.

Binmelik, who is also a Director of Eatsafe Certification PLC, explained that Brazil, a fifteen-hour flight away from the Middle East, exports over 300,000 tons of meat annually to gulf countries. Ethiopia, just two and a half hours away, exports 20,000 tons annually at most.

Although the absence of halal certification is one of the reasons limiting Ethiopian meat export volumes to the Middle East, other factors are also responsible. For instance, Ethiopian slaughterhouses face a persistent challenge in sourcing animals from the domestic market, according to Binmelik.

Ethiopia is now stood at fifth rank internationally and first in Africa in terms of its livestock number. It has 60 million livestock but only exports 1.4 million livestock yearly from its abattoirs, Binmelik said.

Two million livestock smuggled across neighboring borders in a year.

Ethiopia has been exported 21,000 tons of meat to the Middle East while it garnered $110 million in 2021/22 fiscal year. Whereas, countries like Brazil, a fifteen-hour flight away from the Middle East has been securing billions of dollar earnings from Halal products exports to gulf countries,  he grumbles.

Binmelik also presented that some products have also derivatives from nonhalal animals.

“Food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics have pig fat and other derivatives from nonhalal animals including dog and donkey. For instance, chocolate, gelatin, and candy on supermarket shelves across Ethiopia have pig derivatives,” he said.

The Middle East is one of the leading consumer markets that rely heavily on imports due to its low agricultural capacity. Ethiopia, in close proximity, has one of the most robust agrarian economies with leading livestock numbers. Nonetheless, only countries that have adopted the halal certification framework are tapping into the Middle East’s consumer market. Ethiopia is mostly absent in this regard. The linking of unapproved animal meat as the cause of Covid-19 has deepened the acceptance of halal certified foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other products even in non-Muslim nations.

Tourism and hospitality is one of halal services which could be provided in the country. Though Ethiopia has a potential in this regard, it’s one of the untapped sectors, Binmelik complains.

Sof Omar cave in Bale, Nejashi Mosque in Tigray region, and Jimma Aba Jifar Castle have a potential for halal tourism, he said, adding that, “We’re not exploiting the enormous potential due to our sleepy situation.”

Lack of awareness about halal products and failure to build confidence among Middle East countries are the major challenges pertaining to the products, according to Binemelik.

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