UAE: Dubai sets sights on halal zones

Sananda Sahoo for The National

DubaiDubai plans to develop halal zones to tap into a growing trillion-dollar global market as the emirate seeks to become a capital of the Islamic economy.

Arabian Gulf halal food imports are expected to more than double to US$53.1 billion by 2020, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Of that, the UAE alone would import $8.4bn worth of halal food by the end of the decade.

Most halal consumers – Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and Iran – are a few hours’ flying time from Dubai.

Economic Zones World (EZW), which developed Jebel Ali free zone (Jafza), TechnoPark and Dubai Auto Zone, will develop the halal clusters.

Two of them will be located in Jafza and TechnoPark, covering 850,000 square metres and 700,000 square metres respectively. The aim is to attract companies that trade and manufacture halal products.

“It is estimated that one out of every four human beings consumes halal products,” said Essa Kazim, the governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, who is also the chairman of Dubai Financial Market and secretary general of the recently launched Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre.

“Given the latent demand, the potential market for halal products and services is huge and will continue to grow,” he added.

The global halal food industry is estimated at $1 trillion, according to a report from Thompson Reuters in December.

The focus on the halal food industry has gained traction in the UAE after Dubai announced its ambition to become to the world capital of the Islamic economy, which would include the finance and banking, food, tourism, fashion, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and media sectors.

With the demand growing, new and existing food companies are tapping into the market.

Canada’s Prairie Halal Foods has been supplying halal beef, veal and lamb to the UAE since 2008, when the company was set up in Alberta. That year, it started supplying meat, honey, maple syrup and cheese to upmarket restaurants and hotels in the UAE.

The two new zones would help highlight the halal food industry, according to Wahid Kandil, the owner and general manager of Prairie Halal Foods.

“By centralising things and streamlining production, sourcing and shipping, it will ensure that the halal integrity is maintained across the chain,” Mr Kandil said.

His company supplies 50 hotels and restaurants, up from 40 last year. Two years ago, it set up a small butchery and processing unit at Dubai Mall. The company now plans to set up a 465 square metre warehouse and processing facility in Dubai Investment Park to treat daily meat and smoked products that could be shipped to neighbouring countries in the region.

In December, Dubai’s Al Islami Foods announced it would expand its presence in Russia and the Caucasus region to appeal to the Muslim population there, estimated at 284 million.

In 2012, McDonald’s Arabia imported 12,000 tonnes of halal chicken from Malaysia, up by 12.3 per cent from the previous year.

Dubai Municipality announced the emirate will host an international centre for testing and accreditation of halal food by the end of the year.

To be certified as halal, food products need to adhere to criteria governing their entire supply chain, from slaughtering of animals to processing and transportation to preparation and storage.

EZW hopes to develop a halal accreditation centre for occupiers of the planned zones. Currently, companies need to go to Malaysia for accreditation. EZW also expects to attract research development and advisory firms to support the entire halal value chain from production to marketing.

Together, Jafza and TechnoPark already have about 700 companies engaged in the production of halal products. While the Jafza cluster would cater to international markets, the TechnoPark facility would serve local and Arabian Gulf markets.

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