Brazil's 2018 halal food exports may hit $5 billion

16 January 2019, at 12:00am

BRAZIL (Reuters) - Brazilian halal food exports grew about 10 percent in 2018, the country's largest halal certification firm said on Tuesday, despite fallout from a food sector scandal and a truckers' strike that disrupted meat production last year

FAMBRAS Halal estimates sales of Brazilian halal food, including chicken, beef, honey and cheese, rose to almost $5 billion in the period despite the industry's multiple woes, it said in a statement.

"We failed to grow more as we had a very complicated year," Ali Hussein El Zoghbi, vice-president at the certification company, said in the statement.

Zoghbi cited the truckers' strike last May that disrupted supplies and exports as well as a sprawling investigation into collusion to avoid safety checks in the food sector, which damaged the reputations of several major meat packers and led to trade bans.

"These elements hampered chicken and beef production, the major items responsible for the sector's high revenue," he said.

Brazil is by far the world's largest exporter of halal meat, which complies with Muslim dietary rules.

But a tentative proposal by Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro to relocate the country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could jeopardize that position.

Rubens Hannun, president of the Arab-Brazil Chamber of Commerce, said relocating the embassy could create "noise" in Brazil's commercial relationship with Arab nations and open the door for the competition.

According to the chamber, Brazil's total exports to a grouping of 22 Arab countries, which excludes non-Arab Muslim countries such as Iran, to swell to $20 billion by 2022, up from $13.5 billion in 2017.

Reporting by Ana Mano Editing by Susan Thomas