DUBAI: Abdulla Al Hashmi, the Chief Operations Officer for Parks and Zones at DP World UAE, affirmed that DP World maintains a robust food supply chain in the Middle East and beyond, through state-of-the-art infrastructure and unmatched digital trade solutions.
Al Hashmi said that the National Food Security Strategy 2051, launched in 2018, played a massive role in supporting the country’s progress towards ranking first in the Food Security Index. As a result, in 2022, the nation ranked 23rd worldwide and 1st in the Arab world for food safety and quality. To further support the national agenda, companies in the UAE need to capitalise on advanced technologies to ensure a sustainable food supply, increase local food production, and diversify sources of food imports.”
DP World operates four economic zones in the UAE and supports various other development areas. Two key contributors to the food sectors in the UAE are Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), our flagship free zone adjacent to Jebel Ali Port, and National Industries Park (NIP), an industrial zone in the local market.
“Jafza has always been a significant contributor to the UAE’s food sector and plays a vital role in supporting its long-term objectives; the free zone is home to over 600 food and agri-commodity companies from 68 countries.” Al Hashmi added. “Our strategic location and world-class logistics infrastructure provide access to the GCC markets, which rely on imports to meet 85 per cent of their F&B requirements, and global access to the fast-growing F&B markets in MENA, South Asia, and Africa. Our role as a regional logistics hub is to ensure availability and access to F&B resources for the entire region."
NIP comprises 21 km2 of industrial development land in the local market. It sits only four kilometres from Jebel Ali Port, and benefits from direct road access to Dubai’s main international airports. Al Hashmi explained, “Demand for food processing and distribution has been extremely high at NIP. Its location and local zone status make it an ideal destination for companies focusing on processing and distribution within the UAE and GCC.” Major food distribution, processing, and packaging companies such as Carrefour, Hunter Foods, Al Maya, and Nesto have established large-scale operations in NIP. Technology-focused F&B companies such as Kitopi, the multi-brand smart kitchen operator, are also present. “We have significant plans for the F&B sector’s development within NIP, and expect to make some important announcements soon,” Al Hashmi added.
In addition to supporting the food security strategy, Jafza and NIP’s F&B clusters contribute to national initiatives such as ‘Make it in the Emirates’ and ‘Operation 300bn’, increasing self-sufficiency through sustainable domestic food production supported by modern technologies.
“Since our earliest years, we have developed food-grade facilities to house processing, storage, and distribution activities. We have also attracted global food technology and sustainable production companies to enable agricultural irrigation, vertical farming, and energy efficiency,” Al Hashmi expressed.
“In line with our aim to focus on facilitating global food trade, diversifying food import sources, and identifying alternative supply schemes, we launched Jebel Ali’s Agri Terminal. With the help of this new state-of-the-art facility, we look forward to enhancing the year-round availability of essential grains and pulses,” Al Hashmi explained.
The F&B Terminal will have a one million square metre quayside terminal of about 2 km to handle bulk shipments and dedicated space for 12 berths with a 14-16 m draft capable of handling large bulk carriers. It will be equipped to process cereals, meat and seafood products, bottled water, and dairy products, with specialised facilities for oil, tea, coffee, cacao, spices, and various other Agri commodities. The terminal will also have connectivity to the GCC via rail.
“We are working with existing and new partners to develop additional infrastructure and services that contribute to the UAE’s strategies and strengthen Jebel Ali’s position as a global gateway for trade in the F&B sector. The hub supports farm-to-shelf supply chain activities by enabling the development of new technologies for sustainable food production and deployment across the region,” he added.
One F&B company in Jafza, Fish Farm LLC, has already developed a fully environmentally controlled salmon breeding system with 34 fish breeding tanks and state-of-the-art technology to support the growth of the aquaculture sector in the region. Recently, the free zone also partnered with Prime Aquaculture FZE to build the region’s first shrimp-recirculating aquaculture system farm, a significant step to aid in the cultivation of shrimps and significantly increase output in the UAE to meet growing demand.
“The steady growth experienced by the F&B industry serves as a catalyst for businesses to set up distribution and processing activities in Jafza. In 2021 alone, the free zone facilitated the trade of F&B goods worth AED 15.9 billion. Despite current economic headwinds, industry experts forecast a yearly increase of 6.8 per cent between 2022 and 2027. Therefore, Jafza offers an ecosystem that provides multiple growth opportunities for food, livestock, and agriculture businesses,” Al Hashmi said.
What steps is the free zone taking to reduce the complexity of time-sensitive food imports and re-exports?
“As part of our objective to reduce the complexity of time-sensitive food imports and re-exports, we joined forces with Dubai Customs and Dubai Municipality to launch Zadi, an online cross-border trade facilitation service dedicated to food shipments. The digital F&B trade solution eliminates redundancies and connects all food inspection and border control authorities under a single window. One direct result of its implementation is increased efficiency and ease of doing business for suppliers across global markets,” Al Hashmi emphasised.
The Jafza Advantage
Stressing the added advantages offered by the free zone to its F&B cluster, Al Hashmi said, “We are an attractive destination for F&B companies due to several reasons, including our regulatory benefits, advanced infrastructure, and multimodal logistics options.”
Strategic location: Jafza is connected to Jebel Ali port, which is now the largest in the region and 12th globally, and Al Maktoum International Airport, with an annual cargo capacity of 250 thousand tonnes. Companies in Jafza can also reach any GCC destination within 1-2 days by road.
Regulatory benefits: Jafza offers zero tax and duty incentives and simplified processes for setting up and operating a business.
The F&B industry is rapidly evolving, and the free zone is keeping in step with the UAE’s efforts to embrace technological advancements and adopt sustainable food practices that secure the nation’s food supply requirements.
Today, Jafza can effectively cater to all the growing and diverse needs of the F&B industry, from storage and processing to customised farm-to-shelf supply chain activities.
Hatem Mohamed/ Khoder Nashar