The UAE is one of the prominent regional hubs for food and agricultural products that are exported worldwide. DP World, UAE Region and Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) play a pivotal role in achieving this position with the support they provide to food and beverage (F&B) companies.
In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO and managing director, DP World, UAE Region and CEO of Jafza, said the UAE is not an agricultural country due to the nature of its climate. However, this did not prevent us from establishing a world-class hub for food and agricultural companies.
“We have launched seven accelerators that complement each other to create the best business environment in the region. We are proud to have one of the region’s biggest clusters in the food and beverage sector, with more than 550 companies from 71 countries with 6,000+ employees,” Al Muallem told Khaleej Times on Saturday.
Spread over a total area of 1.5 million square meters of facilities, he said the cluster includes warehouses and storage areas managed by Smart Solutions Logistics, the logistic arm of DP World spread in turn on an area of more than 15,500 square meters and with an office space of more than 8,400 square metres.
“In the first half of 2020, Dubai’s foreign trade in food products reached nine million tonnes, at a total value of Dh32 billion, while Dubai’s imports of food products amounted to Dh22 billion,” he said.
Referring to a recent report by Fitch Solutions, he said consumer spending on food is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3.8 per cent during the period of 2021-24.
“At 24.4 per cent of total food spending in 2021, meat and poultry are projected to remain the largest food spending category until 2024. Bread, rice and cereals will be the strongest growing category at 4.3 per cent CAGR. We are hoping to contribute to the success of this promising sector through our various initiatives,” he said.
1st Accelerator: Food and Agriculture Terminal at Jebel Ali Port
Al Muallem also spoke about Jebel Ali Port and Jafza’s storage facilities for the F&B sector. The Food and Agriculture Terminal spreads over one million square meters and has a canal with 16 meters depth to allow shipping cargo on a large scale. In addition to 12 berths, spreading over two kilometres with dedicated facilities to serve the need of the industry including cereals silos, concrete silos, oil tanks, covered warehouses, refrigerated warehouses, refrigerated truck parking lots, and refrigerated container storage yards.
The Food & Agriculture Terminal is equipped to process cereals, meat and seafood products, bottled water, dairy products and specialized facilities to handle oil, tea, coffee, cacao, spices and various primal food products. Connectivity has been enhanced through the Container Freight Station within the port.
2nd Accelerator: Business Incubators
Al Muallem emphasised that supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is one of the top priorities of DP World, UAE Region. To this end, the company has launched three distinct incubation centres, each targeting a different category; halal food companies; Latin American companies; and Indian companies.
“The most important advantage of a business incubator is that it is a one-stop-shop for everything companies need to establish their businesses and go global. This includes a comprehensive registration package with a commercial license for several activities, flexible office spaces in Jafza One that is in the heart of the region’s largest logistics and commercial centre,” Al Muallem said.
3rd Incubator: Comprehensive Online Platforms
DP World, UAE Region has enhanced its business environment with digital economy tools.
“To support the food products sector and ensure food security in the UAE, we have launched ZADI, a unified platform that allows municipality, ports, and customs teams to conveniently obtain food import permits, customs declarations, cargo handling services, and unified food inspections, as well as clearance of food shipments,” Al Muallem said.
He said the e-delivery order system, which was launched through Dubai Trade, DP World’s single window platform for cross border trade, enables full automation of import and export transactions, live tracking of the shipment’s status, and electronic payments and collections.
4th Accelerator: Building an Integrated Multimodal Logistics Hub Offering Sea, Air and Land Connectivity
Al Muallem underlined the importance of DP World, UAE Region’s high-speed logistics system.
“At DP World, we have focused on building an efficient logistics system to serve the food and agricultural products industry. We take advantage of our strategic location in the heart of key routes that connect all the emirates and the GCC countries as well as the logistical integration with Jebel Ali Port, which is connected to more than 4,500 port customers.
“We have strengthened our position with direct high-speed connection with Al Maktoum Airport and express air freight services, becoming a multimodal logistic centre that is capable of efficiently reaching global markets and over 3.5 billion consumers.”
Al Muallem highlighted the capabilities of Jebel Ali Port’s container terminals that can receive all types of VLCCs. The terminals are capable of dealing with shipments loaded on ships directly from the berth.
5th Accelerator: Credit and Financing Facilities
DP World, UAE Region and Jafza have signed strategic agreements with leading UAE banks to facilitate the access of companies to financing.
“In order to provide a higher level of financing guarantee, Jafza has signed a strategic partnership with Etihad Credit Insurance to provide insurance coverage in the event that the parties importing the products of our companies default their payments. The agreement also includes providing guarantees for loans and bank facilities,” Al Muallem added.
6th Accelerator: Being at the heart of the biggest F&B cluster in Dubai
When a company conducts its F&B business in Jafza, Al Muallem said it will be very close to the biggest international companies in this sector.
“These include Nestlé, Heinz, Unilever, Mars, Hunter Foods, Bayara, Al Khaleej Sugar, and Alokozay, among other leading companies and brand names in the F&B sector. This provides startups with value-added services they need for packaging, storage, sorting, stuffing and handling, at the best prices. They also have access to primary foodstuffs that help in manufacturing, facilities for processing all types of products such as cereals, dairy products, meat and seafood, bread, tea, coffee, and cocoa as well as the world’s largest sugar processing facilities,” he said.
7th Accelerator: International Partnerships with Global Markets
Al Muallem concluded by highlighting the benefits companies operating in Jafza and the parks and economic zones of DP World, UAE Region enjoy. He explained the advantages of the goods that have the ‘Made in the UAE’ seal in global markets, especially food and agricultural products. “This is a result of the free trade agreements and customs and tax exemptions between the UAE and several countries. These agreements include the Free Trade Agreement between GCC countries and the EFTA States, the Free Trade Agreement between GCC countries and Singapore and the ‘India-UAE Bridge’ initiative, which enables seamless trade by integrating service offerings and infrastructure capabilities between the two countries.”
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