x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai is well placed to lead halal market

Dubai must be prepared to face fierce competition in the halal food market.

Dubai is rarely short on ambition, nor on delivery, when major projects are involved. So its strategy, announced earlier this year, to become the “capital of the Islamic economy” within three years is certainly eye-catching.

As The National reported yesterday, on the eve of the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai, a Thomson Reuters report estimates the potential value of the Islamic economy at $6.7 trillion (Dh24.6tn), placing it ahead of every country except the United States and China.

The summit’s agenda includes discussions of Sharia-compliant finance and halal food – two areas that present opportunities for the UAE. But Dubai will need to be flexible and proactive to seize opportunities if it hopes to be a regional hub in these areas, let alone a dominant force.

To succeed with the production and export of halal products, its food-processing industries will have to prove themselves superior to those of other regional players, as well as huge global brands such as Kraft, Coca-Cola and Nestle, who all see the sizeable opportunities in the Islamic world.There can be no doubt that they are working on tailored foodstuffs for the Islamic market.

As a Muslim nation, the UAE and its industries are likely to be favoured by Muslim customers over companies that struggle to prove their halal credentials, but that will only be maintained in the long term if they can be competitive.

And, as an established transport hub at the centre of the Arab world, Dubai has a geographic advantage – but so, too, do Saudi Arabia; Turkey, with its access to both Europe and the Middle East; and Malaysia, which has its own large market and that of Indonesia on its doorstep. Equally, Indonesia can look both north to Malaysia and west to the Middle East.

The Thomson Reuters report identifies Malaysia as having the “strongest potential as the centre of a comprehensive Islamic economic sector”. The Asian nation is “expected to maintain a strong presence”, but “may have reached a point of stagnation”.

The message is clear: Dubai has an opportunity and, for the moment, several advantages. But it won’t get there without effort, and a coordinated approach between government and private enterprise.