x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Coffin company cuts back price increase for expatriate caskets

Al Shindagha Trading sparked a public outcry early this year when it increased the price of the basic wooden boxes by more than 90 per cent, to Dh2,300 from Dh1,200.

DUBAI // The price of coffins used to send the bodies of expatriates home will be reduced by 35 per cent today, says the manager of the company that exclusively sells them.

Al Shindagha Trading sparked a public outcry early this year when it increased the price of the basic wooden boxes by more than 90 per cent, to Dh2,300 from Dh1,200.

"We held a meeting with Dubai Health Authority [DHA] over this issue and explained to them clearly how the expenses of making coffins has gone up over the years," said the manager of Al Shindagha, which is licensed by the authority to sell the coffins at Al Qusais Embalming Centre.

"They understood the situation and said they would support us on all fronts in reducing the prices. We have decided to reduce it to Dh1,500."

Social workers in Dubai welcomed the decision.

CP Mathew, the founder of the Valley of Love voluntary organisation, said it was good news.

"A lot of people were struggling to send home the bodies of their loved ones due to increase in the prices," Mr Mathew said. "It will reduce their burden.

"For some people from India the consulate was supporting in the transportation of bodies, but for others it was very difficult.

"Many people were either cremating or burying the bodies in Dubai due to increase in the costs."

When an expatriate dies in Dubai, relatives or friends must pay for embalming (Dh1,010), an ambulance to transport the body (Dh210), a death certificate (Dh70) and cargo charges (from Dh1,200, depending on the destination and weight of the body).

The manager of the coffin company said the price of his coffins had been largely unchanged for the past 30 years, even though the price of raw materials and visa charges for the workers who made the caskets had gone up.

"We are happy with the decision," he said. "DHA is supporting us a lot on this matter. It will ease the burden of people while transporting bodies of their loved ones."

When asked if the DHA had agreed to reduce the lease on their office space at Al Qusais Embalming Centre, which the company won through an open bidding last year, he said the authority was "supporting them on everything".

Other funeral operators in the country had speculated that the high rent charged by the DHA at Al Qusais Embalming Centre was the reason for the coffin price rise.

A spokesman for the DHA said in January that coffin prices were set by the company, and not by the health authority.

frahman@thenational.ae