The beef trade to one of New Zealand's important Muslim markets, Malaysia, is starting to recover after being largely blocked for six years.
Malaysian religious authorities delisted New Zealand beef processing plants in 2005 after deciding that their halal slaughtering practices didn't comply with their requirements.
But the Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) says the trade is gaining momentum again with 14 plants now approved to process beef as well as sheepmeat for Malaysia, under a new halal certification agreement.
MAF chief market access officer Tony Zohrab says it's taken years of negotiation between New Zealand and Malaysian officials and industry representatives to get new halal export standards in place.
He says an essential part of it is government involvement in overseeing the standards.
Mr Zohrab says the key components in that export standard were official approval of halal certification bodies in New Zealand, and competency standards for personnel conducting halal slaughter of animals and for people performing certification and auditing for halal.
Also needed were quality systems specific for halal within each establishment that wanted to produce halal meat for any export market and the establishment of a Halal Advisory Group to advise MAF.
Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says having 14 plants cleared to process meat for Malaysia again represents good progress in getting the trade re-established.
Though it is still fewer than the 41 plants that listed in 2005, good process has been made, he says, and another tranche of plants should be audited this year.
Mr Ritchie says in 2004 the beef trade was up to 8000 tonnes, but in the last 12 months that was only 1600 metric tonnes.