Ice plants are cashing in on the current boom in the construction industry and are running at optimum to meet the demand for ice which is estimated at 1,000 tonnes nationwide in summer and 400 tonnes in the remainder of the year.

The construction industry uses huge amounts of ice in summer and concrete manufacturers need ice to cool down the mixture. As cement generates a lot of heat, ice blocks are added with the water.

Facilities like chiller plants for producing flake ice, other ice plants still need to fill in the demand, according to a business consultant with a Sharjah-based ice plant.

Ice plants not only cater to this industry, but are also big with the hospitality industry and fisheries.

As this holiday season also sees a large number of weddings, picnics and parties, ice manufacturers gear up to supply supermarkets with 'tube ice', which comes in one or two kilo bags.

"July to September is the high season and there is a surge in demand for ice," says Sadruddin Ali, business consultant with the Al Shaer Group which runs Gulf Ice Factory in Sharjah.

Surprisingly, there is only one ice plant in the whole emirate of Sharjah. The Yellow Pages lists two in Ajman and one in Fujairah. Just four in all of the Northern Emirates. Dubai reportedly has two plants.

The Sharjah plant is the largest producer of ice in the Gulf, with an daily output of 350 metric tonnes every day.

It produces massive 25 kilo blocks for concrete manufacturers and for fisheries. The 'food grade' or 'tube ice' is packed in one to two kilo bags and is priced at Dh1 to Dh1.50.

The water used to make ice comes from the regular mains, but is treated by a ultra violet process. It is then frozen to minus 15 degrees centigrade, to turn it to ice. The packing process for the food grade ice is automated and no human hands handle it.

For the past two years this plant has also added another line of ice, so to speak, for banquets and hotel buffets. "Ice for sculptures is gaining momentum here," says Ali. It even has its own in-house ice-carving unit.

The process is different for manufacturing ice for sculptures. The time it takes is four times more than for regular ice as it has to pass through an air-blow system and renders the blocks transparent. Ice sculpture blocks weigh 200 kilos.

The plant provides ice blocks which are sculpted to order or supplies the huge plain blocks so that the chef can show his wizardry on ice to banquet guests.

The company also has another plant, Modern Ice in Dubai, on Sheikh Zayed Road, and another unit in Al Quoz.

The hot and humid season also provides another opportunity to ice manufacturers. Dubai goes in a big way to attract shoppers to its Summer Surprises and has various events at many venues around the emirate.

Ice manufacturers vie every year to provide snow ice for these events. Gulf Ice presently supplies the 'snow ice' for the events at the Dubai Airport Expo.