Malaysia is seeking to expand halal product exports to Japan ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, encouraging local businesses to capture growing demand for food and daily necessities permissible under Islamic law in line with the rising number of Muslim tourists traveling to the country.

Malaysia’s halal product exports to Japan were valued at 2.67 billion ringgit ($690 million) in 2016, up 20.8 percent from the previous year, and they will continue growing at a similar pace toward 2020, said Mohd Shahreen Zainooreen Madros, CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corp., at a recent industry forum in Kuala Lumpur.

The Southeast Asian country shipped halal products worth 42.2 billion ringgit overseas in 2016, up 7.1 percent, with Japan the fourth largest destination after China, Singapore and the United States, the governmental trade promotion body said.

Malaysian businesses have been venturing into Japan, including retort pouch food maker Brahim’s Food Japan Co., Bunga Raya, a restaurant offering authentic Malaysian cuisine, and Manhattan Fish Market, a halal food restaurant chain operating globally.

Shinya Yokoyama, founder of halal information portal Halal Media Japan, suggested at a discussion during the forum that halal is increasingly being seen as linked to healthy meals in Japan, and predicted that Muslim travelers would seek inclusion of halal restaurants in their itineraries.

The number of Muslim tourists from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will almost double from 683,000 last year to 1,334,000 by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with an estimated 10,000 halal meals required daily to meet demand, he added.

Akira Kajita, managing director of the Japan External Trade Organization’s Kuala Lumpur office, said at the forum that the government-backed export promotion body is cooperating with its Malaysian counterpart to assist Malaysian firms breaking into the Japanese market in fields such as logistics.

Kajita also pointed out that four sectors relevant to halal products and services — the environment, health care, tourism and retail — have great potential for growth.

A category-wide breakdown of Malaysian halal product exports to Japan in 2016 shows ingredients topping the list, at 1.22 billion ringgit; followed by food and beverages, at 0.99 billion ringgit; and palm oil derivatives, at 0.26 billion ringgit. The export value of pharmaceutical products jumped nearly fivefold from 2015 to 12.2 million ringgit, according to the trade body.

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