COST and red tape to meet the requirements for halal certification are among the main reasons Malay-owned small and medium enterprises are not applying for the certification, said traders.
One of the key requirements to obtain the certification is having premises to conduct businesses, which many of the SME owners said they can’t afford.
In addition, they must ensure the premises fulfil the requirements and specifications stipulated under the law, which incur further costs.
They were responding to data from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), which showed that more than 60% of halal product manufacturers are multinational companies owned by non-Muslims.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said this is because non-Muslim producers realised the importance of halal certification to market their products domestically and internationally.
He is also “perplexed” as to why so few Muslims have not applied for the certification.
Owner of Cik Bibah’s enterprise, Ummu Habibah Idrus said SMEs like hers don’t have business premises any more with many running their business from homes.
“Most small businesses find it difficult to obtain halal certification because they have no premises. Take me, for instance, I may have premises but it’s still not enough to get halal certification because it’s on the second floor of a shop lot which is more affordable,” the owner of a small food business told The Malaysian Insight.
“One of the conditions is also to have one entrance and exit to the premises. There must also be a toilet outside, among others. Yes, although to apply for the certification is just RM200 but it will incur a high cost to meet all their specifications,” she said.
Asnaf entrepreneur Sharifah Suhaila Syed Ahmad, who runs Cmolek, said that all parties involved, including local authorities, need to loosen the rules, especially for entrepreneurs in her category.
“Asnaf entrepreneurs cannot afford to rent premises. There have been instances where Jakim allowed operations in houses but with certain conditions but the problem then lies with the local enforcement authorities.
“The local enforcement does not give us the licence to carry out our businesses from home and if they don’t approve, then it’s the same as not having halal certification at all,” she said.
Apart from the cost, many SMEs also complained that the registration process via phone is not user-friendly and tedious, especially to those who aren’t tech savvy.
Owner of Dijaz Crunchy Nuts, Suryati Ahmad said she found it difficult during the initial application process because there was no help from the authorities.
“Those who aren’t familiar with technology would find it difficult. I did it myself without any help. It can be difficult, but you get a sense of satisfaction doing it yourself. We have to be positive.”
She did, however, say there are workshops and tutorials to help entrepreneurs apply.
D&J Handmade Chocolate owner Darwis Mohamed said because the SME market is small, Bumiputeras don’t see an urgent need for the certification.
“Non-Bumiputeras are getting these certifications because they’re not in retail any more, they are trading en masse. They are trading overseas and realise that these markets require the certification,” he said.
“The Malays feel that their businesses are small so there’s no need for the certification.”
These traders spoke to The Malaysian Insight from their trading booths at the Halal Fiesta at Mines International Exhibition and Convention Centre over the weekend.
Many at the fest said they attended to support halal products, especially those sold by Bumiputera Muslims.
“It’s difficult to find halal products from Bumiputeras because most are sold online. When I come here I can see, touch and feel the products. I also now know where to get my products from, because not all are sold in markets,” said engineer Basri Che Bakar.
“We Muslims have been left behind for a long time. Whenever there is a campaign to buy Muslim goods, we need to support to help promote our economy. There’s no boycott but we want to progress together,” said Felda retiree Ab Manaf Md Hashim, 63.
However, Farah Mohd Rais, 29, did not rule out the possibility that some of the Malay Muslims are extreme in their stand to boycott non-Muslim products.
“We are not boycotting but we are trying to help these Muslim traders because they pay zakat. This charity is used to help their families and the economy.
“But I don’t rule out the possibility that some are extreme about boycotting non-Muslim products,” he said.
Recently, certain groups have been pushing for a campaign on social media to boycott goods produced by non-Muslims.
The government has denounced the campaign, urging the public to buy Malaysian goods.