KUCHING: Local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should consider venturing into new businesses in Japan and capitalising on its booming halal food industry.

Sarawak Entrepreneur and SME Development Assistant Minister Datuk Mohd Naroden Majais said Japan had strong purchasing power for halal products.

He said it is high time local players export halal products and services to push the industry globally.

Last year, Sarawak’s total exports to Japan amounted to over RM25bil, while imports stood at RM1.7bil.

The major exports from Sarawak were liquefied natural gas, wood as well as iron and steel products.

Japan was also Malaysia’s fourth largest export destination, valued at RM68.48bil, he added.

“Japan provides a huge market with its 127 million population.

“The Japan Muslim Association estimated the Muslim population at about 150,000 there,” Naroden said when opening the Business Opportunities on Halal Industry in Japan seminar here.

The assistant minister cited the success of some local SMEs which have been exporting frozen seafood, coconut nectar sugar, building materials and timber products.

“Japanese buyers are drawn to premium, high-end goods and services,” he said.

The seminar was organised by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) with Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) Kuala Lumpur.

Naroden lauded the holding of the programme in Sarawak to provide business opportunities and exposure to the halal market in Japan.

The seminar also allowed local SMEs to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to promote halal products and services.

Jetro Kuala Lumpur managing director Akira Kajita said consuming halal food has become a trend in Japan.

With the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, a lot of companies from Japan and overseas have taken the opportunity to include halal food as a targeted sector, he added.