The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

UAE emerging as global hub for halal production

Posted by vmsalama on April 29, 2008


by Vivian Salama

The National

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 based here.

“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 difficult thing.”



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