Thailand’s Islamic Economy: Sourcing and Consumer Market Opportunities

Posted by Written by Ayman Falak Medina Reading Time: 3 minutes

Despite Muslims making up only eight to 12 percent of Thailand’s economy, the country is one of the largest exporters of Halal food in the world, which accounts for 20 percent of its total food exports.

Further, the country is also seeing an influx of Muslim tourists who are attracted by Thailand’s increasingly Muslim-friendly tourism sector.


Muslims are a minority in Buddhist-dominated Thailand, accounting for between eight to 12 percent of the 70 million population and making up the majority of the population in the southernmost provinces of Satun, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat. There is also a large concentration of Muslims in Bangkok and its urban areas.

Historically, culturally, and politically, Muslims have played an integral role in Thailand for centuries

Thailand’s Muslim population is ethnically diverse and linguistically Thai with ethnic groups having migrated from China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, as well as ethnic Thais. Two-thirds of Muslims in Thailand are Thai Malays who share a common language and culture with Malaysian Muslims. Most Muslims in Thailand are Sunnis.

Yet, despite Thailand having an extremely small Muslim consumer base, the country showcases the huge potential for sourcing Halal food and beverage (F&B) manufacturers, especially since Thailand is one of the world’s largest exporters of Halal F&B products. Further, the country also shows massive potential for Halal tourism.

Selling to Thai Muslims – The importance of Halal certification

Like most Muslims worldwide, the majority of Thai Muslims adhere to the concept of Halal, and as such, products sold to Thai Muslims are recommended to have been Halal certified.

The Central Islamic Council of Thailand (CICOT) is a government-appointed body responsible for the certification and supervision of Halal products in Thailand, in addition to being the main body that handles Islamic affairs in the country such as marriages and literature.

How to obtain Halal certification in Thailand

Submitting documents to the Central Islamic Council of Thailand

Businesses seeking to obtain Halal certification are required to submit their application to CICOT. A Halal affairs officer will be appointed to check the validity of the documents and will inform the business if their documentation is complete.

If the business holder fails the document screening, they need to correct the problems and resubmit the publication.

Halal training

Businesses that have never previously held a Halal certificate will need to undergo training with the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand, an exclusive statutory religious organization governed by the CICOT aimed at legislating Islamic religious affairs in the Kingdom.

The training will be related to the production of Halal products. The business must provide proof of the training records to Halal auditors if an inspection of the company takes place.

Halal audit committee

After the company has completed its training, the CICOT will form a Halal audit committee, which consists of academics, food scientists, manufacturing specialists, and specialists from the Department of Livestock (in the case of a slaughterhouse) among others.

Lab analysis

The Halal audit team will collect samples from the company’s product lines and raw materials which are sent to the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand for lab analysis. The results are sent back to a Halal Committee.

On-site audits

The Halal audit team will perform an audit of the entire manufacturing/ production process, this includes audits on warehouses and raw materials.

Approval

The CICOT provides the final approval and will send the business their Halal certificate and a contract.

Thailand’s potential as a hub for Halal F&B manufacturing

Despite being a Muslim minority, Thailand is the 12th largest global exporter of Halal products and the fifth largest producer of Halal foods. Halal food accounts for 20 percent of Thailand’s total food exports with 60 percent of its Halal food exports going to the Muslim-dominated countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

To place this in perspective, the global Halal food market is expected to be valued at over US$2 trillion by 2027 with Muslims expected to comprise 25 percent of the global population by 2030.

With continued government support, the country is well placed to be a hub for Halal F&B manufacturing in the region. Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce regularly runs campaigns that promote the country’s Halal-certified products and services to capitalize on the increasing purchasing power of Muslim consumers worldwide.

Among Thailand’s most notable food exports are rice, tapioca products, canned tuna, and processed fruits and vegetables. The country has been expanding its Halal portfolio to include Halal-certified cosmetics, poultry, meats, and plant-based meats.

Thai food exports are forecasted to expand by 8.4 percent in 2022 and placing the country as the 13th largest food exporter in the world.

Thailand has met several key strategies in the Halal food industry such as its increasing capacity in Halal certification and formulation and upgrading its research and development.

Halal tourism

Another considerable potential of Thailand’s Halal economy is its Halal tourism sector which is one of the fastest-growing sectors. The Muslim travel market could reach 230 million tourists by 2026 and be valued at US$300 billion.

According to the 2022 Global Muslim Travel Index, Thailand was ranked fourth among the top 10 preferred destinations for Muslims outside of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries.

Tourism is an integral part of Thailand’s economy and the industry contributes to some 20 percent of total GDP before the pandemic, bringing some US$64 billion to the local economy.


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