by Uwe Fischer //
On her way to the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in America, MATRADE Chairman Dato’ Dr Noraini Ahmad decided to visit “Germany first”. During her stopover at ANUGA in Cologne, the world’s largest and most important trade fair for food and beverages, she gave an exclusive interview to MALAYSIA INSIGHTS.
Dr Noraini has been Chairman of MATRADE, Malaysia’s External Trade Development Corporation, since 2013. She is a Member of the Malaysian Parliament and has been elected chairman of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Association in 2016.
Dr Noraini visited Germany for the first time. “To me, Germany is like a window to the rest of Europe; in fact, not only Europe but the whole world. I came to ANUGA because this is the biggest food fair in Europe. Therefore it is very important for Malaysia to be present here.” Dr. Noraini explained she visited ANUGA “so I can share my experience with our SME’s back home.” With respect to MATRADE’s own events and trade shows in Malaysia, she added she was open “to learn from ANUGA because it is so well organised and established.”
In Malaysia, Islam is the leading religion and thus Islamic food – commonly labelled as “Halal” (Arab for “allowed”) – plays an important role. Hence Dr Noraini said she was “very excited to see that ANUGA has a special platform for Halal products. This is interesting even more so because Malaysia is hosting the world’s largest annual halal event MIHAS in Kuala Lumpur. Next year, MIHAS is taking place for the 15th time and it is going to be the biggest ever, held in a new exhibiton centre called ‘Malaysian International Trade Exhibition Centre’. We are showcasing more products and inviting more companies to participate than ever before.”
With India being ANUGA’s partner country this year, Dr Noraini also met with Madam Harsimrat Kaur Badal, India’s Minister of Food Processing Industries. Malaysia and India are traditionally on excellently friendly terms with each other, being connected by various cultural and historical ties. Many Malaysians have Indian roots. Indian food, spices and recipes found their way into Malaysian cuisine and thus helped form its unique taste.
In terms of trade, India with its abundance of raw material serves as a major source for Malaysian companies to manufacture their products. Malaysia, on the other hand, has an international reputation for its processed food. This was acknowledged by Madam Harsimrat Kaur Badal who said that some of the best paratha, originally a typical Indian flatbread, comes from Malaysia.
Malaysia has been participating at ANUGA with National Pavilions since the 1980s. MATRADE as the Government’s agency for developing the country’s external trade is responsible for selecting the Malaysian companies to be featured as well as organising the design of the booths, the marketing, networking and arranging of b2b meetings.
“Part of our work is also to advice the Malaysian companies on certain requirements and certifications and to give them a lead of what the current market trends are,” added Dr Noraini. “On top of what we are doing now, we are also focussing on e-trade: For our companies, we have initiatives given by the Government through MATRADE on how to trade online. We have collaborations with online market platforms such as Amazon, Ebay or Alibaba. Within the next five years, we expect the emarket business to be more stable and to offer a lot more opportunities.”