GCC: GCC food industry experts to discuss VAT effects

Saleh Abdullah Lootah, the chairman, Food and Beverage Manufacturers Business Group

With the official implementation of Valued Added Tax (VAT) across the Gulf region in January, the ripple effect of the region’s first applied taxation on all goods and services is a pressing concern across the majority of industries functioning in the Gulf – including the burgeoning food production and manufacturing sphere, according to industry experts.

Leading industry experts will cast light on the VAT conundrum and other burning issues at the upcoming Gulfood Manufacturing 2017 Business Talks Conference when a who’s who of the leading industry thought leaders converge on the sidelines of the region’s largest food and beverage manufacturing event to discuss the hot topics shaping the industry.

The Business Talks Conference will feature three keynote addresses and four symposiums across the three-day event with top decision makers and market leaders gathering to outline, discuss and debate the future direction of the industry in the region and beyond amid rising populations catalysing an ever-growing demand for food.

The summit kicks off on October 31 (Monday) with the keynote address Made in the UAE, in which high-profile speakers – including Abdulla Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Food Park, the emirate’s latest initiative in its bid to become a global hub for the food supply chain, and Saleh Abdullah Lootah, the chairman, Food and Beverage Manufacturers Business Group – who will set the scene for the key event which runs till November 4.

The pair will outline the current state of the UAE’s manufacturing sector, drawing on commissioned research to examine future opportunities and challenges in front of an influential audience of industry members, manufacturers and consumers shaping regional food and beverage trends.

“The UAE currently imports 90 per cent of its total food requirements, so opportunities are rife for the industry to manufacture or process a significantly higher share of our domestic food needs at a local level – this opportunity is not limited to the UAE, it is the case across the region,” remarked Lootah, the managing director of Al Islami Foods, one of Middle East’s biggest halal food producers which has supply operations in Brazil and Australia, and which exports its products throughout the Middle East, the CIS and Europe.

“We will leverage the conference to outline how regional food producers can enable faster and more cost-effective production of safer and more reliable products by implementing the latest ingredients, processing machinery, packaging equipment and logistics, warehousing and cold chain solutions into their operations,” stated Lootah.

The second keynote – Are You Ready for VAT? – will see key figures including Tarek El Sakka, CEO of Dubai Pepsi Refreshment Group, and other prominent market analysts address how the impending introduction of the five per cent levy will impact consumer spending and consumption, with a specific focus on the steps regional firms must take to maintain business growth by readying their internal and external finance systems, accounts, sales and supply chain strategies for the introduction of VAT introduction.

With Dubai now home to more than 16,000 food outlets and restaurants, including 2,074 new restaurants that opened between the middle of 2015 and the end of 2016, according to the latest figures from Dubai Municipality, the opening symposium on Day two of the Business Talks Conference on November 1, is sure to attract the attention of delegates.

The Construction and Operation of Food Establishments will take the form of an interactive workshop to help delegates get an understanding of the legal requirements for constructing and operating a food establishment in Dubai, exploring best practice for layout, food machinery and equipment selection.

“The illustrious roll-call of speakers for this year’s Business Talks Conference will see the region’s leading business minds dissect the prominent business challenges facing the entire reginal food production sector, and duly demonstrate how Gulfood Manufacturing 2017 is once again right at the heart of the Middle East and global food supply chain,” remarked Trixie LohMirmand, the senior VP for Exhibitions & Events Management, DWTC.

“Key industry decision makers, thought-leaders, and influential players increasingly see Gulfood Manufacturing, and consequently Dubai and the UAE, as crucial to their regional and global expansion strategies,” noted LohMirmand.

“Alongside the core exhibition featuring the latest food processing and manufacturing products, solutions and services, the Business Talks Conference will highlight why Gulfood Manufacturing 2017 is a must-attend event for anyone in the industry – from start-ups to multi-territory global heavyweights,” she added.

Other sessions will include a look at the trends in the industry for 2017 and beyond, technological developments in food manufacturing and processing and Blending Human Expertise, Digital Platforms and Data Analytics: A Food Industry Perspective, which will give delegates an insight into how automation, digitisation and big data can transform their businesses.

“We want visitors to leave this year’s show armed with potential business opportunities and greater knowledge and understanding of the burning issues shaping the growing food industry. The sectorisation of the show and the topics on the conference agenda are great enablers,” added LohMirmand.-TradeArabia News Service