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WHS 2015 BUSINESS FORUM EXPLORES FOOD AND AGRICULTURE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN OIC COUNTRIES

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1st April 2015) – Food and agriculture is the second largest OIC sector cluster after the energy cluster. Driven by a fast growing demographic, the urban middle classes, as well as competitive domestic companies expanding globally, Islamic markets are major global food and agriculture growth markets.

During a plenary session on Food and Agriculture Investment Opportunities in OIC Countries at the World Halal Summit (WHS) 2015 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre today, panellists discussed ways in which various stakeholders could meet and take advantage of the large and diverse OIC market which ranges from the shores of the Atlantic right to the South China Sea.


Moulana Abdul Wahab Wookay at the WHS

Rafi-uddin Shikoh, CEO of advisory firm DinarStandard attributed three key drivers to opportunities in the food and agriculture sectors for OIC countries. They are the availability of native Islamic finance institutions, the prevalence of a Muslim lifestyle and finally trade between fellow OIC countries.

Zafar Khotamov, who is a Senior Management Strategy Specialist at the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; said that lack of financing opportunities for SMEs in OIC countries is a stumbling block to progress. This curtails opportunities for enterprising individuals to get into business and produce Halal products.

Institutions such as the IDB are figuring out ways to provide financing to enable SMEs to make full use of existing opportunities and produce quality products. The need to provide funding also has to be balanced out by responsibly nurturing these SMEs in order to be competitive and profitable.

Another key concern in terms of food security among OIC countries is the lack of irrigable land, due to the harsh landscapes of many OIC countries particularly in North Africa, Sub Saharan Africa and the Gulf states where infrastructure schemes that will improve irrigation and increase the availability of agriculture land will help increase food output and improve long term food security.

The discussions during this session pointed out that the vast majority of businesses utilising Syariah compliant banking facilities are conventional businesses, which leaves a huge room for growth for the Halal sector in Muslim countries. By embracing each other, the food producers will be able to procure funding in order to grow and produce, which in turn will reduce dependence on imported food and improve the local economy.

It was suggested in the forum that by increasing the availability of funding opportunities, Islamic Banks and food producers will be able to produce a synergy, where farmers and producers will be able to expand their businesses and increase their output and improve quality. Islamic financiers will be able to make big inroads into the vast untapped OIC market. This was highlighted as a win-win situation for both the food producers and the Islamic finance sector. At present OIC countries are net importers of food products. By implementing the right strategies and synergising Islamic financing with businesses in OIC countries, the result will be an engine of growth, which will spur businesses and reduce food dependence from non-Muslim countries.