Learn more about food importation in the UAE

Shipping perishable items can give you a lot of headache, because there are many restrictions and requirements you need to consider when doing so, and these can vary a lot from country to country. However, especially in the United Arab Emirates, food importation is very common, and most of the countries rely on importing goods from other places to attend all of its populations’ demands as far as products they can’t produce themselves.

So what exactly can and can’t you send? On today’s post we have gathered the most common information people should when bringing food items from abroad, offering you efficient advice on how to ship these goods successfully and  not face any hassles or problems during the importation process.

Here are some interesting facts about food importation in the United Arab Emirates.


1. Customs

The UAE has some of the most modern air and seaport facilities in the world.  Food shipments usually are off loaded, inspected by health officials and cleared through customs within hours of arrival at port.  (Dubai ports are the primary entry points for food products.)

Every food shipment is subject to visual inspection upon arrival to ensure compliance with label and shelf life regulations.  Shipments are subject to random laboratory analysis. At GCE Logistics, our team has all the knowledge and expertise to handle your food shipments’ importation efficiently and quickly. We are aware of what kind of documentation, labelling and information we need to have arranged for customs in order to ensure a smooth transportation to our clients in the UAE.


2. Labeling Requirements

For the most part, the UAE enforces the GCC "Gulf Standard", which regulates labeling of foods.  However, a major exception to this is that the UAE, so far, accepts English-only labels and does not enforce the Arabic-label requirement on food products.  Either way, given that the UAE is a major transshipment point into the Arabic speaking region, bilingual labels (e.g., Arabic/English) or Arabic stickers containing crucial label information is recommended.

In general, the standard U.S. label satisfies most UAE label requirements.  The production date requirement is a key difference.  Under current UAE regulations, a food label must contain some essential information, such as product and brand name, ingredients in descending order of proportion, country of origin, special storage and preparation instructions, etc.


3. Food Laws

The United Arab Emirates is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that includes countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. GCC members aim to harmonize their food import standards with international standards, such as CODEX and OIE.

In January 2003, the UAE implemented the “GCC Unified Customs Law and Single Customs Tariff” (UCL).  The UCL established a unified customs tariff of five percent on practically all processed food product.  Under the UCL, live animals, fresh fruit and vegetables, some seafood, grains, flour, tea, sugar, spices and seeds for planting are exempt from any duty.

The UCL established a single entry point policy.  In other words, a product entering any GCC member market would pay the appropriate duty only at point of entry into the GCC then be permitted duty free transit among GCC member countries.


As you can see, food importation to the UAE involves following several requirements and laws. Therefore, finding a company with all the structure and experience in this kind of service is essential to ensure the safe and timely arrival of your goods from overseas and avoid facing any problems along the way. At GCE Logistics, we offer cost effective and smart food importation solutions, adjusting our services according to your specific needs and demands.

To learn more about this service or any other logistics solutions offered by our company, check our website or contact our team.

* Information from United Arab Emirates Country Report “Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards".

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