Backed by a robust business ecosystem, steady investments in infrastructures, liberal trade policies and a strategic long-term vision, the UAE is well positioned to take the lead in high-value manufacturing, industrial production and innovation in advanced technologies.
Supporting the UAE’s industrial and manufacturing agenda is Operation 300bn initiative launched to turbocharge the industrial sector and enhance its role in stimulating the national economy. While emphasising the UAE’s draw as a manufacturing hub, the strategy looks at increasing the contribution of the industrial sector to the country’s GDP from Dh133 billion in 2021 to Dh300 billion by 2031.
The Make it in the Emirates initiative – an open call to all industrialists, investors, innovators and entrepreneurs to manufacture in the UAE – further strengthens the nation’s reputation as a global destination for advanced industries.
A major facilitator of the UAE’s industrial and manufacturing ambitions is the cohort of more than 45 multidisciplinary free zones spread across the UAE. From logistical and supply chain support to competitive business incorporation packages, free zones have been instrumental in attracting businesses invest in the UAE and manufacture products and services locally.
“We believe that free zones are a driving force in the growth of the economy in the UAE,” says Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA). “They help stimulate economic development, create jobs, boost and diversify exports, and expedite the industrialisation process of an economy at lower costs for the government.”
Free zones spur industrial growth
Manufacturing serves as the backbone of Sharjah’s industrial strength and Hamriyah Free Zone makes a significant contribution to this sector through its deep port and inner harbour infrastructure.
“Our strategic location, connectivity through land, air and sea, logistics facilities, world-class infrastructures including offices, state-of-the-art warehouses and prime industrial land along with a variety of commercial and industrial licences and facilities make us unique and provide our investors a distinct edge over competition,” says Al Mazrouei.
Hamriyah Free Zone has attracted a diverse array of investors from food, oil and gas, maritime, industrial manufacturing, processing, packaging, trading and logistics-related companies and has built on its commitment to create a business-friendly environment for various manufacturing sectors.
“Our strategic location, connectivity through land, air and sea, logistics facilities, world-class infrastructures including offices, state-of-the-art warehouses and prime industrial land along with a variety of commercial and industrial licences and facilities make us unique and provide our investors a distinct edge over competition.”
The 30-million-square-metre Industrial Manufacturing Park at HFZA further supports industry sub-sectors such as steel, timber, building materials, machinery and equipment, used clothing, paper and paper products, plastics, perfumes, furniture and fixtures, glass and engineering.
“Steel, in particular, has been fundamental to the success of the free zone’s Industrial Manufacturing Park,” explains Al Mazrouei. “HFZA has the largest number of steel fabricators in the region, providing a world-class foundation bolstered by investor-oriented management and long-term land leases of up to 25 years. HFZA Food Park is the region’s first and largest park dedicated to the food industry. Covering a total area of 11 million square feet, it focuses on manufacturing, importing, exporting, storing, holding and repackaging foodstuff that is destined for various countries around the world,” .
Similarly, Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) in Dubai, home to nearly 800 manufacturing companies, supports manufacturing firms by providing appropriate infrastructure and solutions that enable them to expand their capacities. It provides built-to-suit solutions to clients requiring bespoke facilities and has successfully delivered 100 built-to-suit projects in the free zone.
JAFZA customers also have access to DP World’s smart end-to-end supply chain logistics solutions, which include freight forwarding, container freight station (CFS), 4PL solutions, trucking and distribution, and warehousing solutions.
Unlocking the potential of the F&B sector
Along with driving growth in heavy industrial sector, enhancing long-term self-sufficiency through domestic food production has been a key element of the UAE’s industrial strategy, helping the country to mitigate supply disruptions during crises and promote innovative farming and food production practices to increase production.
With our concept of Farm Fresh, we aim to boost local food distribution and manufacturing, aiding the nation to gradually become more self-sufficient and delivering high-quality products across our diverse range.
Dubai-based GMG, with home-grown brands such as Farm Fresh, Chef’s Choice, Klassic, Sapora, Noor Al Islami, RUH, and Quality 1st Choice, contributes to the country’s national food ambitions while representing the UAE in the global food processing industry.
“With our concept of Farm Fresh, we aim to boost local food distribution and manufacturing, aiding the nation to gradually become more self-sufficient and delivering high-quality products across our diverse range,” says Mohammad A. Baker, Deputy Chairman and CEO of GMG. “Our core objective has always been to contribute to the UAE government’s National Food Security Strategy and add value to our consumers’ well-being through our farm-to-fork strategy.
“As the F&B industry continues to evolve, Farm Fresh remains at the forefront of innovation, bringing a fresh approach to the industry and empowering consumers to adopt a healthier lifestyle.”
Prioritising innovation and sustainability
Local F&B brands are investing in technology and talent to bring in innovation and disruption in the much-needed areas of production, distribution and supply.
One of the leading egg producers in the UAE, Al Jazira Poultry Farms has taken various initiatives to transform the production processes in the poultry industry.
“We started small in 1999 when the country heavily relied on imports,” says a spokesperson for Al Jazira Poultry.
“However, the imported eggs couldn’t match the freshness we offered as a local producer. To raise awareness, we invested in top-notch food-grade inkjet printers from the UK to print the production date on each egg. Our initiative led to the UAE mandating production and expiry dates on all the eggs. Additionally, we introduced transparent egg boxes and shrink film-covered trays with labels, allowing consumers to see the eggs, printed dates, and the farm or origin.”
Al Jazira Poultry has also invested significantly in insulated poultry buildings, which regulates the temperature for hens with minimum energy consumption. “Water filtration plants provide clean water while wastewater irrigates farm trees, reducing waste and creating a green belt in the premises. Composting machines convert farm waste into nutrient-rich compost for farm greenery. We prioritise efficient egg collection, grading and packing, ensuring half-a-million eggs are packed within 6-8 hours, maintaining quality and timely delivery. These initiatives support sustainable practices and resource conservation in our farm operations,” the spokesperson adds.
Meanwhile, GMG has invested in the latest generation of manufacturing equipment along with an onsite laboratory and the state-of-the-art R&D facility.
“Investment in research for new technologies is critical to ensure the wheel of innovation is constantly moving for the industry and supports us in achieving both food security and food sovereignty goals,” says Baker. “Implementation of microwave defrosting units from the US, automatic robot packing of products, and thermal coated tumblers are a few examples that reiterate our vision to invest and promote innovation in the industry.”
GMG recently launched four state-of-the-art food manufacturing facilities to deliver high-quality, nutritious food products to its consumers. “Through these efforts, we are proud to support the Make it in the Emirates initiative while showcasing our commitment to the quality and global standards that the UAE is known for,” Baker adds. ■