With the total food import to the Gulf region set to grow two-fold to hit $53.1 billion by 2020, the regional halal food industry is poised to grow at a fast pace in the coming years, said participants at a recent international halal event in Sharjah.
According to estimates of the Economist Intelligence Unit, food imports to the Gulf region, which stood at $25.8 billion in 2010, is set to grow to $53.1 billion by 2020.
In the UAE, imports are set to grow from $3 billion in 2011 to $8.4 billion by 2020, indicating the opportunities in the sector, it added.
A planned GCC authority to enforce uniform food import and safety rules across the six states will also be a boon to the Halal food industry since Halal standards also call for stricter quality and safety assurance, said the exhibitors, as curtains came down on the first Halal Food Middle East exhibition at Expo Centre Sharjah.
The show was held from December 10 to 12 and attracted nearly 1,800 trade visitors to its showcase of more than 90 exhibitors from 26 countries. It was held under the patronage of Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Sharjah Ruler and Supreme Council Member.
“With its population growing at three times the global average, the GCC region is increasingly depending on imports to meet food requirements. Consumption of food is also on the rise, with the figure projected to reach 51 million tonnes in 2020, with average annual growth of nearly five per cent,” remarked Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, the director general, Expo Centre Sharjah.
The population, he said, too was likely to cross the 50-million-mark by 2020 from the current 40.6 million.
“The vibrancy of the industry and the region’s potential to attract the global Halal industry was clearly visible at the Halal Food ME at Expo Centre Sharjah. Despite it being the inaugural edition, the show had a global impact, attracting exhibitors from 26 countries and visitors from across the OIC states and observer nations, countries that have a considerable Muslim population and major players in the supply of Halal certified food items,” he added.
Accordingto Midfa, the exhibition also assumed global significance on account of UAE’s Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (Esma) being mandated to work on unifying standards for halal foods and cosmetics.
The standardization, once approved by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), will be applied in Islamic and non-Islamic countries within the next three years.
A set of guidelines for halal certification bodies in the UAE is also in the works, apart from a unified code for halal products that is valid for the whole of GCC, it was announced during the exhibition.
“The need for migration of halal certification from the traditional food and beverage sector to other segments like health and food supplements was also felt at the show,” Midfa added.
The presence of halal-certifying bodies such as IFANCA-US, Halal Control EU-Germany, Halal Italia, South African National Halal Authority – South Africa, Standards and Metrology Institute For Islamic Countries – Turkey and Halal Products & Services Association of Pakistan made the event an important one for not only traders but also Halal certification and standards bodies.
Special pavilions at the show included that of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, IFANCA, Halal Italia and IMP Malaysia.