Dubai is planning to develop a halal-only area in Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), Ibrahim Mohamed Al-Janahi, deputy chief executive officer of Jafza, told MEED. The zone will be dedicated to the distribution and production of halal products.

While the authority has not yet decided on the capacity of the zone, it is participating in halal events to introduce the concept and talking to companies about the benefits of setting up in the zone.

“We will announce in the coming year how we will set it up. We will invite companies that would like to distribute halal products from the zone to the entire Middle East. [We’re mainly looking at] the distribution and production of food,” he said.

Globally, trade and logistics authorities are increasingly developing sharia-compliant zones and protocols, says Abdalhamid Evans, Senior Analyst at Imarat Consultants, a UK consulting agency that specialises in the halal sector.

“From the industry side people are [asking] ‘can halal logistics become a viable niche business opportunity in its own right for someone already in logistics?’ Over the last five years the conversation has been going on among various port authorities around the world,” says Evans.

The authorities of Malaysia’s Port Klang, The Netherlands’ port of Rotterdam, Belgium’s port of Zeebrugge and France’s port of Marseille are among those that have set up halal-certificated zones in recent years. Some of them include facilities for food processing, which could also be done at Jafza.

Jafza’s plans are part of a wider government initiative to make Dubai a globally significant Islamic economy.

In January Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum announced Dubai will be developing a host of sharia-compliant products and services, including Islamic finance instruments, Takaful (Islamic insurance), Islamic contracts’ arbitration, the halal food industry and trade standards, and Islamic quality management standards.