Halal Meat: Sector Unviable Without Islamic Markets, Barnaby Joyce says

Beef prices could increase threefold or thousands of meatworkers could be sacked unless protesters cease their campaign against halal certification, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says.

Anti-Islamic protesters have launched a boycott campaign against halal-certified products, including Vegemite, amid claims money paid to Islamic organisations that certify the foods could be used to fund terrorism.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the halal “racket”. Other politicians including Pauline Hanson, Nationals MP George Christensen and independent senator Jacqui Lambie have raised alarm about halal certification.

Mr Joyce today warned that without overseas Islamic markets, such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, the Australian meatworking sector could be rendered “unviable”.

Halal foods must meet numerous strict religious rules to be classified as halal, including being free of alcohol and pork.

“If we didn’t have the halal market for beef that could really affect thousands of meatworkers in Australia because we can sell certain amounts of cuts to certain markets, but other cuts go to Islamic markets and unless it’s halal certified we can’t sell them and that means the whole processing sector becomes unviable,” Mr Joyce said in Canberra.

In November, South Australia’s Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company caved to social media pressure to ditch its halal accreditation, abandoning a $50,000 deal with Dubai-based Emirates Airlines in the process.

Mr Joyce speculated that if meatworks could not sell beef to Islamic markets, the sector might “have to triple the cost of beef” to keep the abattoirs open.

“In Tamworth, there’s 4000 meatworkers from poultry through to beef through to lamb. You want to be really careful before you start putting all their jobs on the line by saying we’re not going to participate in these range of markets.

“In the rural sector, we know these are really strong markets for us, big markets, reliable markets, markets that stood the test of time over decades, and we work very well. They don’t ask us to become Islamic, we don’t ask them to become Christians, we trade extremely well and we get along very well and we understand each other very well and we don’t want any unnecessary heat brought into this space because the only people who lose in this will be us.”

Mr Joyce, asked specifically about Senator Bernardi’s push for a Senate inquiry, said: “The Senate is its own body and I would never, having not been a senator, tell the Senate what it can and cannot do. I just want to make sure that we don’t go off on a tangent here and start to our nearest neighbours and some of our best trading partners, picking a fight that we never needed to have.”