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Halal Food to Woo Tourists

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Producing halal food in the country not only benefits the local Muslim community but also attracts Muslim tourists. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia plans to finalize the draft sub-decree on halal food certification to attract tourists and investors from the Islamic world, as the number of Middle East tourists visiting the country is still low. Food certified as halal is religiously acceptable according to Muslim law.
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak made this announcement during a meeting earlier this week with Ilhan Kemal Tug, Turkey’s ambassador to Cambodia.
Mr. Sorasak said his ministry was in last stages of finalizing the draft sub-decree which would then be presented to the Council of Ministers for approval.
Sos Mou Sine, vice president of the Cambodia Muslim Development Foundation, said that the halal food certification sub-decree had taken some time to be finalized because there was a need to study it thoroughly.
“The halal certification is important because it involves food production that is acceptable according to Islamic law,” he said.
Mr. Mou Sine said Prime Minister Hun Sen discussed the sub-decree with his Malaysian counterpart Prime Minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of the
World Economic Forum on Asean in Kuala Lumpur last month.
“Malaysia promised to provide training assistance to Cambodia on the halal food certification project,” he said.
 “Producing halal food in the country not only benefits the local Muslim community and Muslim tourists, but also creates markets for the food products,” said Mr. Mou Sine.
He explained that Cambodia could also export halal food products to neighboring Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Soueng Sophary, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce, said that the draft sub-degree on the organization and functioning of the committee to monitor Cambodian halal products had been in the pipeline for some time and consultations had been sought from various stakeholders, including the Muslim community.
“The Commerce Ministry is boosting and supporting the halal food production,” said the spokesperson. “It benefits not only local Cambodian Muslims, but also all Muslim people, especially Muslim tourists.”
According to the Ministry of Tourism’s Statistics and Information Department, the number of tourists from Middle East countries was 7,144 in the first four months of this year, up 0.4 percent compared to the same period last year.
The low number of tourists from the Middle East visiting Cambodia was due to the lack of direct flights to Phnom Penh and also partly because of a dearth of good dining places with halal food.
Currently, only Qatar Airways flies directly to Cambodia from the Middle East. The spokesman for Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, Sinn Chan Sereyvutha, said that recently Cambodia had entered into aviation agreements with Turkey and Dubai.
“It is a good move if Cambodia can have direct flight links with those countries in the Middle East region to bring in more tourists,” said Mr. Chan Sereyvutha.
Ho Vandy, co-chair of a government-private sector working group on tourism, said he supported halal food production to attract Muslim tourists.
“We can see the large numbers of new hotels being constructed to receive the increasing number of tourists. However, very few new restaurants serving halal food are being built for Muslim tourists,” said Mr. Vandy.

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