￼During the 11th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) on September 17, 2014, the Brunei government and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish the BGEC.
The concept of the corridor was raised during the 10th CAEXPO and after a year-long research and field studies, agreements were finally reached regarding the purpose, targets and format of the cooperation with a list of projects to be completed.
The corridor is also expected to establish a supply chain link that can boost trade and investment. The Guangxi Zhuang region is located in the southern part of China with direct access to the South China Sea. Apart from its strategic location, the region is also rich in natural resources and has a big skilled labour force, making it an ideal trade partner for Brunei.
The economic corridor is considered as one of the biggest bilateral projects between Brunei and China with an estimated value of over B$500 million worth of joint investments. Under the BGEC, 12 potential projects were proposed for implementation during the Brunei-Guangxi Economic Symposium in 2015.
The major projects for Guangxi include the China-Brunei Agricultural and Industrial Park with a Halal Foods Park, Guangxi Yulin Chinese pharmaceuticals and cooperation in the Guangxi Hechi healthcare industry projects, industrial cooperation at the China Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park, logistics cooperation at Qinzhou and chartered flights between Nanning and Bandar Seri Begawan.
In Brunei Darussalam, the projects are the wet paddy planting project, aquatic breeding projects, industry park under the Brunei Industrial Development Auhority (BINA), culture and eco-tourism projects and industrial and tourism-related logistics services.
Through the BGEC, other countries can use Brunei Darussalam as a launching pad to access the China market, in particular the Guangxi region.
For Brunei Darussalam, the BGEC was created to help solve issues such as food security, employment and economic diversification in line with the goals of the National Vision 2035.
However, a majority of the projects are yet to materialise and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his official visit to Brunei in July 2016 stressed his country’s desire to push forward on the projects to further strengthen bilateral trade between the two countries.
Brunei aims to make its iconic Halal branding worldwide and a household name in the vast global food industry, according to Dr Nur Rahman, Chief Executive Officer of Ghanim International Corporation Sdn Bhd, which is a state-owned enterprise located in the country. Ghanim International develops, markets and promotes high-quality Halal food products under the bruneihalalfoods brand with production bases and reliable suppliers across the world.
The company launched over 50 products in June 2016 and since then business has been overwhelming. “Responses have been positive both from local and international customers. We are gradually growing in terms of our sales. In the international front, we received positive responses from Chinese and Korean markets,” Dr Nur Rahman said.
By 2030, nearly 25 per cent of the world population (or 1.6-1.7 billion) will be Muslims and there will be a huge demand for high-quality Halal food products. China, for instance, has a huge Muslim population
and the current trend shows that non-Muslims too like Halal products as they are safe and of good quality, states Dr Nur.
Recently, Ghanim signed three major MoUs with two international firms, namely China-based Golden Tree Sdn Bhd and Pure Fresh International Holdings Limited. Ghanim sees a huge opportunity in China where Pure Fresh International Holdings has big retail outlets and a broad logistics base. The signing of the MoU offers a good synergy for Brunei and China and the first container left in the middle of December 2016 with around 30 Halal products. The company has also signed an MoU with the Ministry of Health to provide healthier alternatives for Brunei in order to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Sultanate.
Currently, Ghanim is preparing to participate in the 14th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) scheduled to be held in September 2017 where Brunei Darussalam will be the Country of Honour. On December 16, 2016, the company sealed a partnership with Quantum Emas, Korea which will result in Brunei Halal food products to be put on the shelves in the Republic of Korea. Quantum Emas produces food products and intends to source, produce, market and trade Halal food to retailers around Asia and the Middle East.
“The company will buy products from us and supply them to retail outlets in Korea,” Dr Nur Rahman added. “For the Japanese market, we are scouting for a potential distributor and are already in communication with some companies there. Nothing has materialised yet but we are hoping for clinching a deal shortly,” the CEO revealed. Ghanim is looking for potential opportunities in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia too. Competition may be tough, however, with their strong Halal branding and good quality products, Dr Nur is confident that the company should be able to tap these markets.
Ghanim was established in 2009 with the objective of diversifying the economy, establishing a platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to market its products both locally and internationally. One of its main aims is also to perform a Fardhu Kifayah for the Islamic nation, apart from creating more job opportunities.
“In 2012, a business unit was opened in Birmingham, UK to manufacture products for UK and other international markets. Recently, we opened a business unit in Dubai for the Middle East market. We have been in touch with potential customers in the Middle East who have shown positive interest,” added Dr Nur.
During his recent involvement in the Brunei trade mission to the Sultanate of Oman, Ghanim secured some successful discussions with the Oman government and local businesses and has identified several potential opportunities to supply products to the Omani market and to bring their products to Brunei.
Since launching its latest range of products in June 2016, business has improved and Ghanim is sourcing more from the local SMEs to further promote local businesses. Dr Nur encourages SMEs to continuously innovate and to add variety in their products aimed at penetrating not just the local, but the international market too.
Ghanim now has over 50 products in its portfolio and will add more as it moves forward. Some of the company’s products include meat, beverages, dairy, sweeteners, sauces, snacks, blue shrimp crackers, as well as healthier low sodium varieties.
Competition in the Asean region is tough and establishing a supply chain ecosystem is a challenging task. In order to pursue its objectives to develop regionally and internationally, Ghanim International is currently in talks with potential FDI partners from China, to set up a Halal products manufacturing plant in Brunei.
Brunei has a low crime rate, is politically stable and has a sustainable ecosystem. There is no personal tax and a very minimum corporate tax. Its clean waters and unexplored forests provide many opportunities for potential partners. Ghanim will capitalise on these to further promote Halal branding opportunities for the country.
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