UAE-based meat producer reveals ambitious plans for the Iranian market and signals its intention to enter Syria.
Al Islami, one of the UAE's biggest producers of fresh and frozen meat products, is due to open its AED25 million (US $6.8 million) factory in the free-zone city of Kish, Iran, in the next month, as part of its five-year expansion plan, the company told
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The 30,000 sq ft plant will produce mainly cold-cut products such as sausages, and frozen items including nuggets, and it is likely to be followed by a second factory in Iran in the next couple of years.
"We won't be sticking to one factory," said Saleh Abdullah Lootah, CEO, Al Islami Foods. "I am sure that with the success I see coming from this factory we will be opening other factories to produce other products. Iran has more than 50 million people, which is more than all of the GCC countries put together and they eat more meat than people in the Gulf. I am very optimistic."
Some production is already going on at the factory, which is currently being tested. The factory will be capable of producing more than 200 metric tonnes of meat a month, and Lootah is optimistic that this figure should be reached soon after the factory opens. "This market has been closed for so many years and with the advanced machinery that we have, I am sure we will be introducing something new that will add value to the market and the consumer," he said.
Despite being so close to the UAE, Iran has proved to be an elusive market for many food producers, although the situation does seem to be changing, particularly with more modern supermarkets opening up and rumours about international hypermarket groups, such as Carrefour, planning to enter the country. "This is a major step we have taken to go to the Iranian market. With change going on in Iran, they're trying to encourage more investors to the country," Lootah said.
While the market for processed food in Iran is estimated to be about US $600 million, and is growing at 16% a year, Al Islami also views the country as an important stepping stone to lucrative Asian markets. Lootah said the new factory forms an important part of the company's five-year strategic plan to expand in the global market and become an international player in the processed food industry.
Al Islami was established as Co-op Islami in the UAE in 1981.