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Halal products are increasingly central in Italian food companies’ export strategies

by Augusto Grandi

Italian agri-food products are appreciated everywhere. And in Islamic countries they are appreciated even more if they have the halal certification that ensures a compliance with the production procedures that respect the rules of Islam.

“The potential value of certified Italian food destined for Muslim consumers exceeds €4 billion per year, and, currently 85% of the production is destined for export,” explains Hamid Distefano, the CEO of Halal Italia, one of the certification bodies. “Looking ahead, however, the share will grow for the Italian market where Muslims are almost 2 million.”

For this reason, on October 19 and 20 Turin will host the Islamic Economic Forum that will also examine the prospects of a growing market.

“For many Italian companies,” emphasizes Yahya Pallavicini, the Vice President of CO.RE.IS and the Director of the Halal Ethics Committee, “the possibility to export to the Islamic countries in this phase of the crisis in the domestic market has been the salvation.”

But, amid doubts and controversies, even in Italy the sector is moving, beyond the Islamic butchers.

“In the large organized distribution, starting from the large chains, specific spaces are created for halal food products, and the certified companies will grow even on the Italian market,” said Daniele Lazzeri of Il Nodo di Gordio, a think tank.

Pallavicini clarifies that the certification does not lead to the giving up of the typical characteristics of Italian products, also because it is precisely these characteristics that make them appreciated around the world: “We do not want useless formalities but also to avoid speculations.”

Overall, Distefano points out, there are almost 300 certified Italian companies (120 are those that have turned to Halal Italia), almost all owned by Italians.

For almost three years, for example, Abit, a Turin-based company that processes milk, has had the certification.

“The certification,” recalls Piero Cerlesi, “concerns fermented milk, which is not a yogurt, with very little lactose. We produce 250,000 liters per year, out of a total of 10 million liters of milk produced per year, for a total turnover of €24 million.”

There are also those, like Sebaste of Grinzane Cavour (Cuneo), that don't have the halal certification but sell their nougat, and especially their sweet truffles and their chocolates made with Piedmont hazelnuts in the Emirates.

They sell to Abu Dhabi, Bahrein, Qatar, and the expansion is continuing. And not just in Islamic markets. The exports from the Piedmont company, with the Sebaste and Antica Torroneria brands, have reached 30% out of revenues of €14 million.

As for the Forum in October, the session dedicated to Food will be led by Gianmarco Montanari, the Director General of the Turin municipality. Representatives of Slow Food and of the University of Gastronomic Sciences will also take part.