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The Gulf countries currently import up to 90% of their food products to meet the rising demand with the UAE expenditure alone reaching up to $6.78 billion (NZD$9.53 billion) in 2009, according to TradeArabia.com.

The food sector is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing industries in the UAE and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), the report says. Recent figures from the Dubai World Trade Centre shows that there are now at least 150 food processing plants in the UAE as the country continues to aggressively promote food investments.

The food sector is poised to serve as one of the catalysts for growth in the GCC job market as food investments continue to surge in line with efforts to attain self-sufficiency. The UAE Government leads the way by committing a total of $1.4 billion in investments, the report says.

This sector is also one of the most HR-intensive industries because of the rapid expansion initiatives being implemented by food companies, the report quotes Valerian D’Souza, head of Manpower Services, Dulsco HR Solutions saying.

‘Ramadan season is particularly important for the industry with demand for food and food-related services sharply increasing at this time of the year, creating a corresponding need to hire more people,’ he says.

The influx of international fastfood chains, which are moving away from recession-hit markets into high-growth destinations such as the GCC, has further strengthened the food sector, according to D’Souza.

The halal food market is another key growth area for specialised manpower services. With increasing demand from 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, UAE companies are now positioning themselves as major suppliers of the halal food industry, which has been estimated to generate between $632 billion and $2.1 trillion annually.

According to D’Souza, outsourcing is an excellent option for food companies to satisfy their immediate employment requirements without tying down their HR or administration departments on activities such as employee recruitment, visa procurements, and the deployment of administrative support to new employees.

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