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Oct 20, 2013

Indonesian clerics rort our abattoirs

A powerful body of Indonesian clerics is essentially holding Australian abattoirs to ransom over the certification of meat as Halal and suitable for export to that country: 
QUEENSLAND abattoirs are being slugged thousands of dollars a month through a religious levy on meat exports so powerful Muslim clerics in Jakarta can raise money for Islamic schools and mosques.   The Halal certification fees can cost some meat processors up to $27,000 a month.
The Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), the top Islamic body which orders fatwa religious rulings, has even banned a Brisbane business from operating - because it was not charging Queensland abattoirs enough to give the religious tick-off to export meat. 
The scandal has stopped most of Queensland's Halal meat exports to Indonesia, as angry abattoir operators boycott the more expensive Halal certifiers endorsed by the MUI.Australian companies that certify meat as Halal, or legal under Islamic law, must be accredited with Indonesia's MUI - which approves just one certifier per state or territory. 
The MUI has suspended Brisbane based Australian Halal Food Services (AHFS) for engaging in "unfair competition'' that could "weaken (the) Halal certification movement". Certifiers must donate a share of their revenue to mosques and Islamic schools. 
AHFS - which refused to comment on Saturday - sponsors the As-Salaam Institute of Islamic Studies, based in Eight Mile Plains. It has also spent funds repairing and maintaining mosques in Rochedale and Rockhampton. … 
… But MUI chairman Amidhan Shaberah said AHFS had been suspended for trying to work interstate, as well as Queensland. He said setting minimum fees and restricting one certifier to work in each state was "part of our control''. "We have to standardise the charge to avoid any unfair competition between certifiers,'' he told The Sunday Mail during an interview in Jakarta.
This has nothing to do with the backlash from the live export ban, an ill conceived and misbegotten act of the Labor government in a knee-jerk reaction to a TV show.  While this act destroyed Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier and crippled the northern cattle industry, damaging the rest in the process, this is the separate issue of processed meat exports.
Such high fees leave abattoirs with only three options:
  • First, to stay out of that particular market, as they appear to be doing;
  • Second, Charge more to all consumers including those with no religious fetishes, or charging the Halal market for the entire additional cost which could make the product too expensive and leave the company open to claims of religious discrimination under the Human Rights Act which was written and enacted by people with little or no commercial experience; and
  • Third (which is most likely), pay less to struggling producers for their livestock.
Where a product has to be produced under special requirements and is not visually different to the normal one, a certification system is necessary.  Such systems though, can be abused. 
The usual form of abuse is for an industry to use it to make it impossible for new competitors to enter. In cases where government runs the certification, industry lobbyists push hard for conditions to ‘protect consumers’ which have the same effect while leaving those already established to hog the lot.
In this case it is being used to extort money from meat processors by monopolizing the certification with the stated aim of preventing competition.  

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