[Analytics] Halal in Russian Samara: How local becomes global

Discussion at the Volga Investment Summit and World Halal Day in the city of Samara, Russia. Photo by the events' press service.

The World Halal Day is one of the most respected events in the world of the halal industry (“halal” means permitted in Islam). This year the event took place on October 3-5 in Russia. Earlier the annually forum was held in Singapore in 2014, Pondicherry (India) in 2015, Zagreb (Croatia) in 2016, London (UK) in 2017 and Seoul (S. Korea) in 2018. Last week it came to the city of Samara, and it wasn’t a random choice. Dmitrii Shcherbakov specially for the Pan Pacific Agency.

Informally Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, is considered to be the main Russian city of cooperation with the Islamic world. There is a large Islamic population here, and a famous International economic summit “Russia — Islamic world: KazanSummit” have been held annually for decade, at which representatives of Russia and Muslim countries meet.

Last year in November, the Governor of the Samara Region, Dmitry Azarov, held talks with South Korean Ambassador to Russia Woo Yoon-keun, during which he indicated the possibility of holding the World Halal Day in Samara to increase the tourist attractiveness of the region.

Many more meetings and negotiations have passed since that moment. Mr. Mohamed Jinna, Chairman of the United World Halal Development (UNWHD), the organization that created and promotes World Halal Day, Mr. Marat Kabaev, President of the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB), Mr. Haydar Kamaletdinov, Vice President of IAIB, Victor Kudryashov, First Vice-Governor – Chairman of the Samara Region Government, and many other people around the world were involved in the lead-up to the event. So, finally Samara, a city on the Volga with a population of 1.2 million people, but not Kazan, another city on the Volga with a population of 1.2 million people, for several days has become the most important Russian halal city in the world.

Opening the summit, the Governor of the Samara Region Dmitry Azarov proudly noted that “such a significant event takes place in Russia and it is on Samara land.” The Samara Region authorities took full advantage of the opportunity to introduce their achievements to the whole world. At the same time and venue with the World Halal Day, the first in the history of the region  – Volga Investment Summit the was held.

The speakers of both events were leading representatives of the halal industry and Islamic economy, officials from Russia and OIC countries, major investors, businessmen and experts, journalists. The Samara Region agenda was presented to them, starting with one of the Panel discussion “Samara Region Development Strategy: Contribution to the Global Economy” with the Governor as a leading speaker, and then was continued at several meetings for investors with detailed talks about regional benefits, subsidies and co-financing, including a pitch session of Samara’s projects.

Despite the fact that the summit was focused on a global issues of halal industry development, there was a place in its agenda for the Samara region too. For example, during a discussion on the development of Islamic finance in Russia, Samir Tagiyev, Senior Regional Manager for CIS region at the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD, is part of the Islamic Development Bank), said that it would not be easy to create an Islamic bank in Russia without lobbying by some influential person (a chief of the IAIB Marat Kabaev for example, he added). But for the start it’s possible to create the first Islamic foundation in Russia in the Samara region, Samir Tagiyev said.

According to the Global Islamic Economic Report 18/19, that is prepared annually by Thompson Reuters, the Islamic business market share was about $2.107 trillion in 2017. By 2023 this share will exceed $3 trillion. The largest halal market today is Indonesia ($170 billion), Russia takes the 9th place with $41 billion, told Pan Pacific Agency on the eve of the World Halal Day, Marat Kabaev, President of the IAIB.

At the same time, the number of Muslims in Russia is approaching to 30 mln and it’s still growing. “Moscow is considered to be the largest Muslim capital in Europe. Population growth is the driver of Halal industry development,” said Aydar Gazizov, the head of the International Center for Standardization and Certification “Halal” of the Council of Muftis of the Russian Federation.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has set a task to increase the export of Russian agricultural products to 45 billion rubles by 2024, Mr. Gazizov recalled: “Now we trade for 25 billion rubles per annum. It’s necessary to double export in five years. Taking into account the situation in the world, the main buyers now are the countries of the Arab-Muslim world. And there is nothing to do there without Halal certification.”

Summing up the discussion of the business program, the press service of the Samara Government quoted Aleksey Ilmetov, deputy minister of economic development and investment of the Samara region.

Mr. Ilmetov said: “It’s not accidentally that his forum focused on halal. It is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, which creates additional opportunities for export. The number of enterprises that operate in the food industry according to halal standards is constantly multiplying. Even those enterprises that had never been involved in halal before, for example, the Syzran meat processing plant, have passed certification, and now about 40% of production is halal products. Thanks to the forum, even more Samara manufacturers will see a future for their business in halal.”

Halal Fair in the city of Samara, Russia. Photo by the Volga Investment Summit and World Halal Day press service.

Russian businessmen also did not miss the opportunity to show themselves to the world. Halal-based entrepreneurs exhibited at the trade fair that accompanied Volga Investment Summit and World Halal Day. Kuibyshev Square in Samara is the largest in Europe. Therefore, a place was prepared both for the halal fair and the gastronomic festival “Fair of Flavors – Chaykhana 2019”.

Many local companies known throughout Russia became exhibitors of the fair. For example, the Samara meat processing holding “Amar Group”, the sweets factory “Uslada” from Zhigulevsk, “Shatlyk” meat processing plant (founded in 2018) were here. But many halal producers came from other regions of the Russia. So, on the shelves of the fair, one could find halal sausages and canned goods of the “Belozeryevsky Product” brand from the Republic of Mordovia and sweets of the “Volsky Konditer” from the Saratov Region.

Great accompaniment to the Russian goods was provided by expositions of foreign guests: GISB Holdings (ten companies in the group), Mofaz Dagang (eight companies), IVM Group of Companies and many others. Earlier MOFAZ Dagang agreed with IAIB to explore the potential of the halal market in former Soviet Union countries, Bernama reported. Following the deal, MOFAZ Dagang would act as a facilitator to bridge Malaysian industry players and Russian consumers.

Even after a rich business program, guests and participants of the World Halal Day in Samara could leave the region unconvinced that the best halal producers are here. But after the cuisine show “The Battle of Pilaf” and the preparation of the giant shawarma “Friendship of Peoples” at about 24 meters long, where 40 cooks placed 88 kg of meat and vegetables, there were very few chances for it.

Russian hospitality certainly likes to break records. But a lot of work usually only starts when the fairs rolled up the shelves.

Dmitrii Shcherbakov is the Pan Pacific Agency’s Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief. Russian version of this article is available here.

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