Malaysia plans to set up a halal food conglomerate with companies from China and the Middle East to promote the country as a hub for the processing and packaging of Muslim food.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the matter would be discussed with Muslim businessmen and leaders from China who are scheduled to visit the country next month.
"We hope the idea will materialise soon as halal products have a worldwide market," the minister said.
Muhyiddin, who had just returned from China after a two-week visit, said that Malaysia could act as the halal certification and packaging centre for items produced in China and Middle East countries.
He said it would be easier to market products with halal certificates from Malaysia as the certification had been acknowledged by Muslim countries and communities.
In China alone, he said, there were about 50 million Muslims who consumed food products annually.
"I have requested our embassy in China to furnish statistics on the halal food industry and its potential in the country before their visit next month," he said.
He added that the group, which comprises respresentatives from the Chinese Muslim Religious Council, would, among others discuss ways to certify Muslim food produced in China, including allowing religious and veterinary officials from Malaysia to inspect factories in China.
He also said Malaysia would adopt some of the provisions under the China Fair Trade Act when formulating a similar Act this year.Malaysia has already been making efforts to become a worldwide hub for the processing of halal meats, a plan which is expected to grow the industry over the coming years. Some of the largest Western fast food producers, such as KFC and McDonald's, have already established business ties with the country's larger meat processors.