Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director of the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, HFZA, and Sharjah Airport International Free Zone, SAIF Zone, has said that the shift of consumer preference for organic products in the Middle East, and the UAE's position as the second largest market for organic food in the region, has made the sector integral to the UAE free zones.
Saud Al Mazrouei made the comments during his participation in a two-day Natural and Organic Products Europe exhibition in London recently.
The Director of HFZA, who led a delegation to the event, said, "The gradual shift of the consumer's preference for organic food and products in the Middle East and the current position of UAE as the second largest market for organic food in the Middle East, has made this sector integral to us and it is our goal to promote and become one of the major pillars for the organic sector in the coming years."
"HFZA's participation in this year's Natural and Organic Products is a start for us to understand the sector further and interact with potential investors," he added.
Quoting a report by Frost and Sullivan, Al Mazrouei said that organic farming in the GCC is set to reach US$1.5 billion by 2018, driven by evolving consumer tastes and a change in health habits.
In the UAE, the number of organic farms rose to 39 at the end of 2013, covering a total of 3,920 hectares, compared with just 218 hectares in 2007, he said. In general, the demand for organic food in the Middle East and North Africa is increasing.
"HFZA is facilitating the set-up of more food industries in the zone to increase their growth in the MENA region, because of the strategic position and advantages it has to offer, in addition, the UAE is emerging as a major food re-exporting hub in the world, making HFZA all the more attractive as a destination for investors to expand there business and tap in to new business opportunities through the region," he said.
The Natural and Organic Products Europe exhibition that took place at ExCeL London on April 19th-20th, featured 600 exhibitors showcasing thousands of natural and organic brands, including supplements, botanicals, superfoods, THR mark herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies, personal care and beauty, eco-household, and food and drink.