by Vivian Salama
ABU DHABI//The nation is emerging as a global leader in the rapidly
growing halal industry as Muslim consumers look to incorporate more
Sharia-compliant products into their daily lives.
Worth an estimated Dh7.7 trillion, the industry has broadened in
scope to include everything from food to Islamic fashion and textiles,
pharmaceuticals, lifestyle products such as cosmetics, and Islamic
finance. Dubai is a major halal industry hub, importing and channelling
an estimated Dh550 million worth of halal merchandise each year.
“In Arabic-speaking countries, [halal] can refer to human behaviour,
speech communication, clothing, conduct, dietary laws, finance or
anything that is permissible within Islamic law,” explained Michael
Hughes, the senior marketing manager of the Halal World Expo, which
will take place in Abu Dhabi later this year. “In non-Arabic speaking
countries, it just refers to Muslim dietary laws.”
Given the growth of Muslim populations worldwide and greater
awareness of health-related issues, the halal food industry could
easily account for 20 per cent of world trade in food products by 2025,
the Canadian government’s Agri-Food Trade Service has estimated.
In the UAE, 80 per cent of imported food is halal, with products
coming from countries such as Brazil and Australia, the latter
exporting 43,071 tonnes of mutton, 17,685 tonnes of lamb and 3,312
tonnes of beef to the Middle East in 2006.
Last year, the Emirates accounted for 7.77 per cent of the world’s
lamb and beef imports and 15.38 per cent of all poultry imports, second
only to Saudi Arabia.
“Halal products have become mainstream,” said Pamela Pike, a
spokesman with the Halal Exchange, an international e-commerce business
that assists with the online halal trade. “With the rapid expansion of
the industry and widely disparate certification bodies and
organisations, there has been an explosion of halal products,” she said.
Worth an estimated Dh2.06 billion, the halal cosmetics industry is
burgeoning. “Products are halal because of their quality,” said Ms
Pike, adding that much greater care was being taken in the quality of
materials used in cosmetics.
A number of the world’s halal industry leaders have moved their
production facilities to the emirates, hoping to capitalise on the
country’s economic expansion.
Contributing to the growth of the industry locally is a decision by
the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (MCCM) to set up its marketing
centre in Dubai.
Malaysia remains the leading producer of halal products, with Halal
Food Park, a Dh66.06m development created to produce 200 metric tonnes
of halal products per day, due to open in the country this year.
Other halal producers are looking to the UAE for partnerships. Last
year, for example, exporter Canada Agra signed an agreement with
Spinney’s to get Maple Lodge Farms’s chicken-based delicatessen
products established here. Global food and beverage manufacturer Nestlé
also has a number of halal products with regional production facilities
“You’ll be surprised nowadays to know how people are very conscious
about this,” said Vinod Ruchani, the general manager of All Needs
General Trading, which recently launched a number of Sharia-compliant
cooking products in the GCC.
“Customers want products that have quality standards, that are
natural and prepared without preservatives and without artificial
colours and flavours,” the manager said.
In the past two years, a number of governments have sought to review
and control the products that are deemed to be halal, but the lack of a
consensus over the definition of Sharia-compliant products has caused a
setback to efforts to implement global industry standards.
Industry insiders also point out that a lack of branding is one of the biggest issues hindering further growth.
While some shops, restaurants and supermarkets here display signs
indicating that their products are halal-compliant, they say a lot more
needs to be done to promote this growing trade.
“Some of the seminars we conduct try to educate the market on how to
promote that they are halal-compliant,” said Mr Hughes. “That’s a very