International Joint Ventures and Merger & Acquisitions

How Indian manufacturers can sell goods in UAE, Bahrain and Qatar?

July 14, 2020

India exports various goods to the UAE, Bahrain as well as Qatar and while the export policies and procedures may be similar in nature for almost all countries, special care must be given to each country’s specifications.

India exports various goods to the UAE, Bahrain as well as Qatar and while the export policies and procedures may be similar in nature for almost all countries, special care must be given to each country’s specifications. Even the terms used for the process of importing and exporting varies from country to country, particularly in the middle east. We have distinguished between the various processes required to be followed for an Indian manufacturer to sell in the UAE, Bahrain as well as Qatar, below.

Exporting to the UAE

The Certification Process for exporting to the UAE has been described below:

1. Specific Attestations Required

The Halal slaughter as well as the health certificates require to be notarized by the UAE Embassy or a Consulate or even an Arab Embassy or Consulate if the UAE Embassy is not present in India or not functioning momentarily due to any reason. Further, the non‐notarized certificates can be returned at any time to acquire notarization within 15 days as well.    

2. Government Certificates and Legal Entry Requirements

Following requirements need to be fulfilled with regards to certifications and legal requirements:

  • All original certificates have to accompany every shipment at the time of entry. Exporters may even be allowed to send in their details directly to the bank.   
  • These certificates are used just for the shipment it is accompanied with because it only contains details pertaining to that shipment.
  • U.S. “State” issued export certificates are acceptable.
  • No modifications to the certificates are allowed once it has been shipped with the accompanying product.

3. Other Certification/Accreditation Requirements

Moreover, the original invoice, bill of lading as well as the packing list is required to accompany the above mentioned certificates for meeting the requirements pertaining to documentation in the UAE’s customs authority and to release the shipment.

4. Labeling Requirements

A food import mechanism has been drafted by The Food Department of the Dubai Municipality which comprises of the labelling as well as the shelf life standards required. Further, it also mentions the other clarifications as to the standards and methods of application.

  • Labeling regulations
Previously, the UAE only accepted English labels but now, bi-lingual labels are a requirement. Arabic stickers as well as labels are now required to be see with atleast the following information:-

  1. Product description.  
  2. Ingredients.  
  3. Country of origin.   
  4. Net weight.
Certain products, like those meant for institutional use may be exempt from the Arabic labelling procedures. However, the purpose of the above mentioned mechanism is to provide more clarity over the products being imported into the UAE.

These labeling requirements apply to every product shipped in bulk as well as institutional sized containers. Meanwhile, it is important that bulk containers of fresh fruits as well as vegetables contain most amount of labelling information while .hey may not be required to carry their production and expiry dates. A food label must contain the following information:

  1. The product name (name of the food) in a prominent manner on the label.  
  2. The ingredients it is comprised of, in descending order of proportion.  
  3. Additives using their “E” number (group names are accepted)  
  4. The source of the animal fats (beef, buffalo, etc.)  
It is important that the animal fats and ingredients be sourced from animals which are Halal slaughtered. While the use of pork fat, as is the case with all pork related products and ingredients, is restricted.  However, pork products are allowed to be sold in certain excluded areas of retail stores and in few restaurants.  Further, non‐Halal meats (meat and poultry) are allowed into the country through a special exemption issued by the Director, Food Control Section of the municipality. These products are subject to certain restrictions, like for example, these can only be sold to non‐Muslims through the above mentioned excluded areas. The labels on pork and products comprised of pork must also comply with the general labelling needs and must clearly mention the existence of pork. These food labels cannot include any pictures of pork, nor may it comprise of any recipes with pork. In order to cler any confusion for exporters, the following pre-requisites must be followed before export of any product:  

  1. Any food or ingredient which is known for causing sensitivity must always be declared beforehand.   
  2. The net content must be mentioned in metric units.   
  3. The Production and expiry dates must be engraved, embossed, printed or stamped directly on the original label or the primary form of packaging at the time of production, using indelible ink only.  The P/E dates which may be printed on stickers are not an acceptable alternative, as well as U.S. bar coding in lieu of P/E dates either.  Only one set of P/E dates on the label is permitted and the  P/E dates shouldt be printed in the following manner, depending upon the shelf‐life of the product:   
  • The Day/month/year for products with a shelf‐life of three (3) months or less.
  • The Month/year for products with a shelf‐life longer than three (3) months.
Beneath the month/year format, the last day of the month will be considered the expiry date.The municipalities offer the following services for facilitating the import of food products.

The pre‐shipment approvals of:  

  • The Food Labels ‐ The copies of the labels can be sent either by fax or via e-mail and either directly or through one of the importers to the requisite health officials for review and registration. This bodes no cost on the exporter and when the product gets approval and is thereby registered, the bar code of the said product will be listed with the municipality’s approved list of products. This helps facilitate the export from India and also reduces the said time for clearance. While pre-approval of products is not necessary, the ATO Dubai is strongly biased towards recommending pre-approval for products especially when they are new in the market.      
  • The Products ‐ There are certain officials who are authorized to conduct an analyses of the products and thereby determine its compliance with the standards for food ingredients. The cost for this varies on the basis of the product and the ingredients it comprises of. There is mandatory requirement for lab testing on first consignments to the UAE and this same product may also be used for random lab testings in the future as well.  Again, while pre-approval is not a necessity, ATO Dubai still recommends it for first time consignments. It is very rare when officials permit certain food products comprising of minor labelling infractions as well. The exemptions are granted only on a one time basis and are limited to institutional end users only.

5. Other Regulations and Requirements

It is important that every imported food product into the UAE comprise of:

  • A health certificate which has been issued by the appropriate government agency in the exporter’s country (India), attesting to the product’s fitness for human consumption.
  • A Halal slaughter certificate issued by a UAE approved U.S. Islamic Centre and notarized by the UAE Embassy or a Consulate.
  • Bill of Entry/Airway Bill.
  • Packing list.
  • Country of Origin Certificate.
Either the Embassy of UAE or the UAE Consulate in the United States is required to notarize the health and Halal slaughter certificates. Moreover, there are no special packaging or container size requirements for food products either.  It is important to note that no product which is irradiated can be exported to the UAE and thus a radiation free certificate is required for all food products from Europe and Asia.     

6. Other Specific Standards

There are certain other aspects which are also come under the radar for inspection and checking like it is very common for inspection officials to routinely check for salmonella in the poultry products.  In case any salmonella is detected in more than 20 percent of tested samples, the shipment will be rejected completely. Moreover, the imports of alcoholic beverages are strictly controlled and very few local companies have the license to import and sell alcoholic beverages in the UAE. These products are exempted from the generalised labelling requirements. Further, while the import of non-alcoholic beverages is allowed, these cannot comprise of any alcohol content beyond 0.05 %. These products are also exempted from the generalised labelling requirements. As detailed earlier, the sale of pork products is highly regulated and confined to a well‐marked section of the market. And it is mandatory for restaurants to clearly define if any of its dishes comprise of pork. Only a select few restaurants and hotels have been allowed to sell pork in the country. The UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) is responsible for regulating the importation of live animals and plants into the country.

7. Export of Retail products

The Regulatory frameworks: For the export of retail products, the manufacturer is required to comply with the Federal Law No 18 of 1993 which is concerned with commercial transactions and Federal Law No 4 of 2012 regarding competition law.

Primary requirements:. For the distribution of the exported products within the UAE. Indian manufacturers are required to open a branch in the UAE and appoint a specific service agent locally. Foreign companies in certain sectors are also required to obtain an approval from the relevant authorities for this purpose. For instance:

  • A halal certificate is required for the import of poultry and meat.
  • The import of pharmaceutical products requires an approval from the Ministry of Health.
No restrictions are imposed over the market access for certain specific goods in the UAE or over any specific sector apart from the oil and gas sector where it is mandatorily required for the UAE to hold 80% of a company’s share capital. This is an exception to the general 51:49 foreign ownership rule applicable within the UAE which means that a UAE company must be at least 51% owned by UAE nationals and just 49% maximum owned by foreign nationals. However, the new Foreign Direct Investment Law had been introduced on 23 September 2018, wherein the UAE Government announced that it shall permit 100% foreign ownership for mainland companies as well.

8. The General tariffs and rates for certain other exported goods

Mainly a 5% customs duty is levied on all products imported into the UAE and higher customs duties of 50% and 70% are levied over the imports of luxury goods into the UAE which include products like tobacco. However, many goods are exempt from customs duties for the benefit of the public in general including pharmaceuticals and agricultural products too.

9. Certain Preferential tariffs

A number of free zones have been established by the UAE wherein these customs duties are not applicable. Thus, any entity which has been registered under any of the specified free zones is permitted to import the goods into these free zones without any obligation to pay the customs duties otherwise applicable over other zones. The products manufactured within countries that form a part of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement 1998 are exempt from the payment of customs duty as well.

10. Non-tariff barriers available to exporters

Companies with a trade licence can import goods into the UAE. A company can obtain a trade licence from the Department of Economic Development to import goods into mainland UAE. Companies established in a free zone can use their free zone trade licence to import goods into the UAE. There are specific import restrictions on a number of goods, including alcoholic products, pork products, medical products, photographic material, firearms (and related items) and fireworks. Importing some of these goods may require special permission from the relevant authorities.

10. Governing authorities for exports from India

The GCC Common Customs Law governs over the main legislation over the imports as well as the exports. This Law had been approved by the Federal Decree Number 85 of 2007. The GCC Common Customs Law is applicable all over the GCC states and all the UAE laws related to customs are in direct compliance with these GCC Common Customs Laws.

In order to export goods within other states around the UAE and the UAE itself, the said exporter is required to provide specific detailed information to the UAE Federal Customs Authority regarding the goods as well as the country of origin. Further, if the products fall within the categories of restricted goods then the exporter is required to acquire the prior approval from the specified competent authority and then submit the same with the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

An exporter is required to submit the following documents with the UAE Federal Customs Authority:

  • The Export invoice.
  • The Packaging list.
  • The Approval from the relevant authority.
Federal Law Number 13 of 2007 has also been promulgated by the UAE over those commodities which are subject to the import and export controls. The Ministry of Economy and Commerce is permitted to impose any bans over the imports within the UAE or any exports or re-exports if it deems it necessary under the law for the safety of the country and for matters concerning the public health, environment, natural resources and the public policy of UAE. This list of prohibited goods includes drugs, radiation-polluted substances, as well as paintings and drawings contrary to Islamic teachings.

Authorisation from the relevant authorities is required for exportation of the below mentioned products:

  • Drinking water (Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology).
  • Alcoholic beverages (Dubai Police).
  • elecommunications equipment (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority).
  • Pharmaceutical products (Ministry of Health).
  • Printed books (National Media Council).
  • Explosives (Ministry of Interior).
Any form of non-compliance with the specified export regulations can attract monetary penalties as well as imprisonment under the law.
Furthermore, any non-compliance with trade restrictions is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding AED1 million according to the Federal Law Number 13 of 2007 over commodities which are subject to import and export controls.

Exporting to Bahrain

Bahrain: Requirements for Import into the country and Documentation for the same

This comprises of an import documentation and other requirements whether it is an Indian exporter or any other foreign exporter.

Customs Procedures for all exported products

In order to export to Bahrain the exporter or their local agents are required to finish a Customs bill of entry before importing the goods into Bahrain. The exporters must always opt for a registered and a licensed clearing agent in order to ensure that the import procedures are finished off without any hassles.

The customs clearance process includes the following steps:

  • The Statistics Office
  • The Imports and Exports Restriction Office
  • The auditing the customs charges and other charges
  • The payment to cashier of related charges
  • The Inspection and checking of the documents
The importer is required to submit the Customs declaration as well as the following documents for the importation of goods into Bahrain:

  • The Import Customs declaration form
  • The Shipping agent delivery Order from shipping agent line to the importer/consignee along with a valid commercial registration.
  • Three copies of the original invoices  from the exporter addressed to the importer
  • Two copies of the packing list with the detailed weights, packaging and goods classification for each individual item within the shipment
  • An original certificate of origin from the relevant chambers of commerce of country of origin of goods( India)
  • A copy of the insurance policy
  • Original bill of lading
  • Import permit or approval from the relevant authority for importation of restricted goods
  • Bank advice or guarantee (if applicable)
  • A statistical declaration if the final destination of the goods is within GCC countries.

Import Customs Clearance Procedure for all exported products

Post the submission of the customs clearance form via the eCAS Customs Clearing System, the process for clearance of the exported goods shall be as follows:

  • The payment of the requisite duty fee at the cashier counter in the customs point meant for goods’ clearance.
  • The submission of all necessary documents to the specific customs clearing officer at the customs counter.
  • The payment of the necessary cargo handling fee and making an appointment for the movement of the said cargo.
  • Post this, the port operator shall move the specified container to the inspection point.
  • At the inspection point, customs authorities shall analyse the goods and inspect it as per the guidelines issued.
  • Post this, the goods shall be cleared and hence allowed to leave from the customs point.
As per the Bahraini Customs Directorate Handbook, the importers of food products into Bahrain, are required to show a manufacturer’s certificate which states that none of the food items comprise of any cyclamates whatsoever.

Further, the imported as well as the exported goods in Bahrain are classified based on the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC).

The information regarding exports and the further specific enquiries can also be found at the following address:

Bahrain Customs
P.O. Box 15
Kingdom of Bahrain
Tel: (+973) 1735-9999

The above address can be used for goods specific and detailed enquiries pertaining to the manufacturer’s product if required.

Exporting to Qatar

Import Requirements and Documentations for exporting goods to Qatar from India

This comprises of import documentation papers as well as other requirements for both the Indian exporter as well as any other foreign exporter. All individuals exporting products to Qatar are required to have the requisite license to do so. These licenses are available at the Indian embassy and the importer in Qatar is also required to have the necessary import license issued and registered under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.  This regulation also applies to wholly foreign owned entities operating in Qatar as well.

Licenses required for all exported products:  All imported meats from any foreign country, including beef and poultry products, require a health certificate issued by the country of export( India) and a “Halal” slaughter certificate issued by an approved Islamic center in that India. Without these two certificates, the exporter shall not be able to make any export from India to any country in the middle east, including Qatar.

At the time of clearance of goods from the customs zones, the exported must be in direct contact with the requisite importer in Qatar since he is responsible for submitting a variety of authorized documents including the detailed customs declaration, bill of lading, certificate of origin, pro forma invoice and import license, which must be acquired by both the importer and the exporter respectively, prior to such export.  Information on specific requirements should be obtained from the Customs and Ports General Authority as well. The inspection of goods is conducted at customs station, or as directed by the Director General, in the presence of the owner or his representative so appointed.

Additional Importing Regulations within Qatar:

From April 1, 2011, the Qatar Customs imposed certain restrictions as well as guidelines for any imported shipments to Qatar which may enter through the Doha airport or the seaport:

  • The Qatar Customs can only accept official invoices, official certificate of origin (COO) & packing lists. These requirements are now mandatory under the law and any shipment received without these documents shall be liable for rejection and thus returned to the exporter.
  • Further, it is also mandatory to write the HS CODE of the commodity in the official invoices and COO failing which the shipment is again liable to be rejected and shall not be accepted by the clearance officials.
  • ‘COUNTRY OF ORIGIN’ OR ‘MADE IN’ fields are absolutely mandatory for every product and must be placed evidently on the materials as well as the containers.
  • The ‘COUNTRY OF ORIGIN’ OR ‘MADE IN MARK’ on the containers must completely match with the information provided in the official invoice, COO and on the materials. Any mismatch of information shall lead to the rejection of the goods completely.
  • In case any of the products originate from Europe, it is necessary to mention clearly on the COO the country of origin. Example: ‘Country of Origin: European Community: UK’.
  • In case the goods are produced together in 2 different countriesthen both the countries of origin must be mentioned on the COO, invoice as well as the products.
For any further or specific details pertaining to the goods or the shipment, the manufacturer may contact the following authorities and seek advice for the same:

General Authority of Customs
P.O. Box 81, Doha, State of Qatar
Phone: (974) 4441-1149
Fax: (974) 4441-4959

Additional Information for exporters from India

  • A letter of credit (L/C) is a very common instrument used for the control of exports and imports in Qatar. If the Letter of Credit is opened then the exporter is required to give a certificate of origin as well as a certificate from the captain of the ship or from the requisite shipping agency, mentioning very clearly that the said ship is permitted entry into the Arab ports. The Arab Embassy or the Consulate or even the Arab Chamber of commerce shall be responsible for then notarizing the two documents into the exporting country.
  • Any Letter of Credit which has been initiated within Qatar is endorsed with specific transhipment clauses as well. It is mandatory for the importers in Qatar to build their Letters of Credit computations on the “cost and freight (C&F)” basis only. Further, most agents within Qatar prefer to acquire the insurance through local and international insurance companies, for covering any damages which may occur during the transit of the goods from the exporting country under the Letter of Credit.

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