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Importing Food into Dubai: A Step-By-Step Guide

Importing Food into Dubai

Dubai being the gateway to the African and Arab markets has become an international and the busiest hub in the Middle East in trading food products. The Import and Re-export business of food plays one of the major roles in Dubai’s economy. In the year 2019 alone, to meet the food demands in the holy month of Ramadan, Dubai imported food products worth AED 8.3 billion, the figure is likely to increase, as the Minister of State for Food Security said recently that the food consumption in Dubai is growing at the rate of 12% per year. To control such a high volume of trade and to ensure the safety and the quality of the products, proper procedures have to be followed which are enforced by the government.

The significant things to know before importing the food products are discussed below:

FIRS Program and Food Trade Control Section:

The Food Import and Re-export System (FIRS) is an electronic service provider by the Dubai Municipality to assist the trading organizations which work in the import or re-export business of the food product. Its main services are:

  • Importing Food Products
  • Re-exporting food products
  • Issue all kinds of certificates
  • Food labels and circulars about the food traders and clients
  • The leverage of online submission of applications from any corner of the world.
  • Registration of all kinds of food items and food product information
  • Food inspection
  • The fees too can be paid electronically from anywhere in the world
  • Food sampling

Prior to Shipment Arrival

Importing establishment must be registered with Dubai Municipality E-Government:

Before importing food products to UAE, the company must be first registered to the Food Import and Re-Import System (FIRS). The import establishment process can only be possible when the company importing is registered in the Dubai Municipality. The registration is done by doing the following listed steps:

Companies can register online by submitting an online application by logging on to the website: www.dm.gov. ae and the registration process can be done by following the instructions given.

For registering the company manually, a company’s representative must go to the customer service of the e-government in Dubai Municipality’s Karama office and submit the following things:

  1. A copy of the company’s trade license.
  2. The company’s telephone and fax numbers.
  3. The company’s email
  4. Post office Box number of the company
  5. Names and mobile numbers details of the representatives of higher authorities of the company.
  6. The location and details of the warehouses are located in Dubai.
  7. Telephone and fax numbers of that particular warehouse/s.

Food labeling and Standards:

If any company wants to register for more products that haven’t been approved before, this can be done by sending an electronic mail through the (FIRS). This option to get any packaged food approved is present on the main menu under the name “approving food label”.

The food label for the packaged food yet to be approved must contain the following:

  • The brand name should be mentioned.
  • The name of that particular food/product. A concise description of the product is also required.
  • The list of the ingredients used in the product should be given in descending order according to the volume and weightage of each ingredient used.
  • The expiry dates of the products should be mentioned. The format of the expiry dates is set to be the first date then month then followed by the year. The products which have the shelf life longer than three months date can be exempted from the format i.e. only month and year is written.
  • The name of the manufacturer, packer, and distributor should be mentioned on the product.
  • The total net weight or volume of the packaged food should be mentioned.
  • Name of the country in which it is made.
  • The product’s bar code should be also available on the product.
  • The Lot number of each product.
  • As the packaged food will launch in Dubai so the language written on the label should be Arabic.
  • Storage conditions in which the product should be placed must be mentioned.
  • The laboratory testing should also be mentioned on the label. The newly registered and imported food products would have to go laboratory testing in Dubai Municipality.
  • Any discrepancy in mentioning the listed items might result in the rejection of the products.
  • There are certain standards that are defined by the government and which need to be followed while importing food products. The documentation required is listed below:
  • An electronic importation document must be submitted through FIRS Online before the arrival of the shipment. The document can be of two types.
    • For importing food
    • For importing to re-export
  • As the shipment is received at the port, it should be inspected by the Food Trade Section.

Food Classification & Barcode:

All the food products being imported must be registered in the Registration and the Classification System which is identified based on a barcode. It can be done in the following manner:

Barcode on food products
  • Submission of an e-application
  • Careful filing of the required information
  • In case the label is absent the food sample can be submitted to the concerned officer.

Expiration and Production Dates Standards:

The production and the date of the expire should be mentioned in all the packages. It should be mentioned in the following manner

  • Double dates should be avoided
  • No sticker should be used for mentioning the dates.
  • The dates must be clearly printed and difficult to erase.
  • The validity of the date should be at least three months

4 Step Quick Procedure to Import Food Product:

These documents then need to be submitted:

  1. The bill of entry
  2. In the case of containers, delivery orders are needed
  3. Health Certificate approved by the Health Authority in the country of origin.
  4. Halal Certificate for the poultry and livestock products approved by an Islamic Authority approved by UAE
  5. The packing list of the products of shipment. The packing list must be prepared cautiously from its weight to the HS Code for each item, everything must be mentioned.
  6. The certificate of origin mentioning the state of origin which is also approved by the country’s Chamber of Commerce.
  7. For importing the goods with exempted duty an Import Permit is required.
  8. Other certificates might include the GMO-Free certificate, Avian Flu free certificate, Dioxin Free Certificate, etc. Failure to submit the certificate can lead to adverse consequences.

It should be made sure that there is no banned material in the ingredients. The banned ingredients might include drug products like poppy seeds, alcohol, etc. In case of any undertaking, the establishment should follow the application of FIRS and check the status of the product.

food import and export

The completion of the registration is usually advised to be done prior to the arrival of the shipment so it can provide time to address any sort of problem that could be there due to any mistake which then gets solved efficiently and timely to avoid any sort of delay.

All the transactions can be made through electronic means from any part of the world for Importing Food into Dubai Customs.


According to a report, 65% of the food items imported from international countries do not follow the standards and procedures resulting in huge loss. So it is compulsory for the traders to understand everything related to the importing and the re-exporting of the food products, from the above guide about the process. The smoothe trade can only be possible if all the procedures are followed correctly as it avoids any unnecessary delay and ensures the safety of the resources.

The food products can be moved from the mainland either by trading directly and finishing the custom procedures all by yourself or with a reliable freight forwarding company that can take care of all the procedures for you and make the trade flow in with a peace of mind.

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