LOCAL PRODUCTS, GLOBAL MARKET

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | INDUSTRY | FOCUS: SHARJAH FOOD PARK

Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) has unveiled the new Sharjah Food Park as its flagship project to fuel the food industry. Its ambition is to connect locally produced goods with the global market, leveraging Sharjah's industrial capacity and logistical expertise.

HFZA, the authority of the Emirate's bustling Hamriyah Free Zone, is taking a driving role in developing Sharjah's food industry. In March 2017 it announced its flagship project, Sharjah Food Park, the region's first city dedicated to food and commercial industries at the world's largest annual food and hospitality show, Gulfood 2017.

HFZA's Food Park will be the largest free zone city dedicated to food and commercial industries. It will be home to warehouses, offices, and labor accommodation covering an area of more than 11 million sqm. Of the 136 planned warehouses, 68 units will be ready by July 2017. In order to make the free zone as attractive as possible, the authorities have made the application process as expedient as possible, making sure it only takes one hour to set up a company; for example, the whole process takes three steps: complete the application form at the sales counter, pay the fees, and collect the trade license.

While the launch of the Sharjah Food Park project was the highlight of Gulfood 2017 for HFZA, officials also held meetings with investors and business partners to showcase HFZA's broader portfolio of integrated solutions for the food industry. At the launch, Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of HFZA, noted the megaproject is part of the free zone's commitment to developing innovative services and catering to the growing demand for products in local and regional markets.

The Food Park will be dedicated to the import, export, storage, manufacture, and processing of food. In the launch of the Food Park, Al Mazrouei explained that every aspect of the food sector industry would be integrated into the Food Park, connecting all stakeholders of the food ecosystem.

Already operating in Hamriyah Free Zone and filling demand for food products is Italian Dairy Products (IDP), a B2B company specializing in Italian cheeses with UAE ingredients. With imported machinery and constant local supply of dairy, IDP supplies hotels, airlines, and supermarkets with cheese of the same quality found in Italy. The lack of bureaucracy and support from local government officials in Sharjah makes the free zone and its new food park especially alluring to IDP and other companies in the food industry

This push for high-quality food products is supported by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI). The chamber is working to reinforce partnerships with local factories, including factories in the free zones, through the exhibition of agricultural products, aiming to showcase local products and market them on a broader scale to attract further investment.

HFZA is hoping to leverage Sharjah's assets as a regional industrial hub with the UAE's food industry potential. Rapid population growth is sustaining high domestic consumption and underpinning the UAE's robust and globally competitive food sector. Information gathered by the SCCI predicts the total value of activities of different food industries in the UAE could reach AED61.2 billion (USD16.7 billion) by 2018. On top of that, food industries account for the largest percentage of investment in the industrial sector at roughly AED44 billion (USD12 billion), making the UAE a regional and global hub for food.