Jafza sets out Halal stall as standards debate drags on

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

Dubai aims to become a global halal hub - but that depends on whether it can deliver a globally acceptable set of standards
Dubai aims to become a global halal hub - but that depends on whether it can deliver a globally acceptable set of standards

Related tags: United arab emirates, Middle east

Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Jafza) pitched itself as a one-stop Halal hub at a road show in Japan this month, while the UAE is still working towards finalising its Halal standards.

As home to one of two Halal Zones in the emirate of Dubai, Jafza is making its case to international businesses looking to set up in the UAE. Bolstered by the promise of internationally-recognised Halal standards, many of the country’s free zones are competing to attract firms wanting to use the UAE’s ports as a gateway to the Middle East and wider Islamic world.

Big in Japan

At events in Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo, Jafza representatives met more than 300 Japanese businesses over a series of seminars, in collaboration with Tokku Food Association and other Japanese trade bodies.

The overwhelming response that Jafza’s Halal-focused road show received reflects Japan’s sharply growing interest in serving rapidly growing markets for halal products. Japan seeks to reach and serve over 2 billion consumers of halal food and other products in the world including the wider Middle East region which forms the sector’s largest market​,” said Ibrahim Mohamed Aljanahi, deputy CEO of Jafza and chief commercial officer of the free zone’s parent group Economic Zones World.

This is the market Jafza as a trade and logistics hub serves. Jafza provides everything that Japanese businesses require to become a significant force in the Halal industry, particularly in food, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors​,” he added.

Standards slipping

Along with the quality of the facilities at Jafza and other practical considerations, a key plank in the free zone’s pitch is the set of Halal standards being developed by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma). These are part of Dubai’s wider pitch to become a global Halal hub, based around the idea that it can offer a single set of standards which will be accepted by Islamic authorities around the world.

However, this aim is not certain to be fulfilled, especially given the Halal standards in question are yet to be finalised. At a conference in Dubai this month, Esma officials said work was still progressing on the standards, but did not give a date for their completion.

Dubai originally announced its aim to become a global Islamic hub in at the end of 2013, pledging to launch an International Halal Centre first in 1Q 2014​, then by the end of the year. But despite launching a Halal mark for products within the UAE in November​, there has been little visible progress so far – perhaps understandably, given the complexities of creating standards that could potentially be accepted world-wide.

Although many organisations and businesses have welcomed the idea of a single set of Halal standards, some have expressed scepticism about the plans. Speaking at Gulfood in February, a Brazilian poultry industry official suggested the standards might make little practical difference​, given the wide range of Halal standards Middle Eastern customers already demand of suppliers. 

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