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It’s a date as UAE food firms target $35bn Indian market

People, Person, Man Al Barakah Dates
The deal between Al Barakah Dates and Candor Foods could set a trend in UAE-India food exports
  • Al Barakah Dates signs joint venture with Candor Foods
  • India, with a population of 1.4bn, presents ‘massive opportunity’
  • Dubai date facility designed to process over 100,000 tonnes annually

A food producer in Dubai has announced a joint venture to take its brand to India as experts say the market offers “growth potential” to many food exporters in the UAE. 

Al Barakah Dates said it will process and export over 30,000 tonnes of bulk raw material from its factory in Dubai Industrial City to promote UAE-farmed and produced dates and date derivatives.

The deal could trigger a trend of raw materials being sourced from the UAE and shipped to India.

The joint venture with India’s food processing firm Candor Foods comes on the back of the UAE-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) announced in May to enable greater market access through preferential tariff rates and benefits.

Yousuf Saleem, managing director at Al Barakah Dates Factory, said: “This joint venture with Candor Foods gives us a solid foothold to develop the Al Barakah Dates brand in the Indian market and promote UAE dates and ingredients.

“The potential of the Indian market is immense,” he added.

Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, head of strategic development for the Middle East and Africa at Apex Group, told AGBI that the announcement was “truly pathbreaking”.

“While historically India has been the supplier of food products to the UAE and the GCC, this deal will be a trailblazer in terms of raw materials sourced from the UAE being shipped to India to be further processed for derivatives products for sale in India.”

Traditionally the UAE has been a trans-shipment hub for food and agricultural products that go to India, and agriculture has primarily been technology-driven such as hydroponics and vertical farming. 

Arun Leslie John, chief market analyst at Century Financial Consultancy, said India – with a population of 1.4 billion and a GDP of $3.46 trillion – presents a “massive opportunity” for food product manufacturers. 

“The country’s expanding middle class, which is becoming increasingly health-conscious, is open to trying global foods and willing to pay a premium for high-quality products,” he said.

“With India’s total import of processed foods and related products standing at around $35 billion and UAE’s aggregate export of dates at only around $250 million, there is enormous growth potential.”

Al Barakah Dates processes over 100,000 tonnes of dates and date products a year – almost half the UAE’s entire domestic harvest. Picture: Unsplash/VD Photography

John said access to the Indian market will also enable the UAE’s food industry to “attain economies of scale and global competitiveness”, making it a “win-win situation” for both countries.

The Al Barakah Dates factory is the world’s largest privately owned date factory and designed to process over 100,000 tonnes of dates and date products annually. This is equivalent to almost half of the UAE’s entire domestic harvest. 

“The UAE and India’s trade history is coming full circle,” said Saud Abu Alshawareb, executive vice president of Tecom Group, which owns Dubai Industrial City.

“The UAE is now an equal contributor to a long-standing exchange of ideas, crafts, cuisine and culture. Cepa provides a mutually beneficial corridor for UAE-based manufacturers like Al Barakah Dates to export to a powerful consumer market.”

John added: “The growth of modern retail in India has made it easier to distribute food products, and this presents an opportunity for the UAE’s companies to capitalise on the potential of the Indian market.” He said that sectors such as seafood and poultry could also benefit.

The joint venture underscores the UAE’s growing significance as a prominent manufacturing hub. This is a priority of Operation 300bn, which aims to develop the industrial sector and enhance its role in stimulating the national economy by promoting localised production and exports to global markets.