x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Coffin prices may be lowered following 92 per cent price hike

The company approved to sell the coffins is negotiating with the Dubai Health Authority to lower its prices.

A man drills the remaining nails into the wood to seal off a coffin.
A man drills the remaining nails into the wood to seal off a coffin.

DUBAI // A company that sells coffins says it is considering rolling back prices after residents cried foul over a 92 per cent price rise.

Al Shindagha Trading increased the price of the coffins used to transport the bodies of expatriates home from Dh1,200 to Dh2,300 at the start of the year.

"We are hopeful of cutting the price from April," said the manager of the company, who did not wish to be identified.

He said he was in negotiations with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to reduce the rate of the lease for their office space.

"They are trying to reduce the price of the lease so that we can bring down the prices of the coffins. We are positive about finding a solution to the problem," he said.

If negotiations are successful, the price would be reduced to about Dh1,700 - a 42 per cent increase. The exact amount would only be determined once discussions are over.

A number of social workers and private companies involved in the funeral services industry had criticised the company for jacking up prices. They said poor people were struggling to send the bodies of their loved ones home.

"Some of them have even started cremating or burying their loved ones here due to the hike. It should be rolled back immediately," said CP Matthew, the founder of Valley of Love voluntary organisation.

"The cost of transporting a body to a country like India comes to more than Dh5,000 with the new rates. It would be a good news if the prices are brought down."

Al Shindagha Trading is the company approved by the Government to sell coffins at the Al Qusais Embalming Centre.

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, which can be anywhere from Dh1,200, depending on the destination and weight of the body.

In Dubai, embalming is done at the Medical Fitness Centre in Sonapur after which the body is placed in a repatriation coffin.

Coffins from outside the centre are not allowed as a security measure. They have to be sourced from the company within the centre, which is approved by the Dubai Healthy Authority (DHA).

A DHA spokesman said they had selected the company after open competition.

"After embalming, we place the body in the coffin and seal the coffin and this takes place under the direct supervision of the DHA staff, who are also responsible for transferring the coffins to the airport, through the municipality ambulance."

However, the DHA said it was not responsible for pricing and referred all questions to Al Shindagha Trading.

The manager of Al Shindagha Trading said the price of his coffins had remained largely unchanged for the past 30 years, even though the price of the materials such as steel and wood and visa charges for the workers who manufacture coffins had gone up.

He added that his company also helped the poor.

"We have never turned away anyone who came to us seeking help. We've always supported them and sold the coffins at a reasonable rate."

frahman@thenational.ae