Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Thailand aiming to be hub for halal food

Thailand will host the third Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED) in the next two years as part of efforts to turn the Kingdom into a regional hub for halal food.

Ministers and senior officials from 50 countries and regional organisations from Asia and the Middle East ended two days of dialogue in Egypt's resort beach of Sharm El Sheikh yesterday with a joint declaration to cooperate in political security, economics and social-culture matters.

AMED has already established a sub-working group on halal food to set standards for products and production.

Halal food is produced and certificated in accordance with Islamic principles for Muslims. Thailand aims to be a regional hub for halal food production and is bidding to create jobs for economic development in the restive South where the vast majority of the population is Muslim.

The Thai government and private sector plan to develop a halal industrial estate in Pattani.

Thailand also proposed the two regions would explore possibilities to use food crops to produce alternative energy.

"Food is now linked with energy security and sustainable development, a nexus we should explore further," said Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Chariyavat Santaputra, who led the Thai delegation.

AMED, in its joint declaration, stressed the importance of undertaking concrete actions in various areas including logistics, infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, development, energy and food security.

The AMED participants also affirmed the importance of energy in their relations and will enhance cooperation as world oil prices keep rocketing.

Petroleum companies from Asia are looking to invest in oil and gas in the Middle East to secure their energy resources. Asia has a number of projects in the energy sector such as the US$10-billion (Bt310 billion) Rabigh Petrochemical Plant - a joint venture between Aramco and Sumitomo Chemical. Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) has investments in oil and gas in Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, Iran and Algeria, Chariyavat said.

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