International Joint Ventures and Merger & Acquisitions

Clearing UAE Customs: Food, Pharmaceuticals & Electronics Industry

April 06, 2024

This article delves into the documentation and requirements necessary to clear customs when exporting goods from India to UAE, while also specifying the restrictions and prohibitions set by the Government of UAE and India.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a highly diversified and open economy, emerging as a prominent option for Indian businesses seeking to delve into the Gulf market. A hub for business and entrepreneurship in the Middle East, UAE is a major importer and exporter of goods and services. Here’s why UAE is the top destination for Indian exporters:

  • The country's top imports include machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, and food products, while its top exports include crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas.
  • Being the third largest trading partner of India, the bilateral trade figures between India and UAE have increased from USD 59.5 billion in 2013–2014 to USD 84.8 billion in 2022–2023.
  • The export from India to UAE saw a staggering boost after the implementation of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022 that aims to enhance bilateral trade, facilitate investment, and eradicate any trade barriers between the two countries.
  • Indian exports find themselves drawn to the UAE market owing to its economic development, multicultural population, and a large Indian expatriate community.
However, navigating the export process can be a cumbersome process as it necessitates careful consideration of specific requirements and documentation to ensure a successful transaction. Understanding the crucial requirements to clear customs is mandatory before proceeding with your export journey. We have provided a comprehensive guide for businesses looking to export from India to UAE:

Understanding Export Regulations Across All Sectors

Procuring the necessary documents is an integral part before proceeding delving into exportation. At each stage of product shipment, appropriate documents are required to streamline the process and to avoid any legal implications in your export journey. To export goods from India to UAE, businesses must procure the following documents:

  • IEC (Import Export Code)
  • Airway bill
  • Commercial Invoice cum Packing List
  • Pro forma Invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Certificates of Inspection (if applicable)
  • Other product-specific documents (if applicable)
To get details about where and how to procure these documents at CLICK HERE
It is mandatory that all original certificates must accompany every shipment at the time of entry. Exporters may even be allowed to send in their details directly to the bank. However, these certificates are used just for the shipment it is accompanied with because it only contains details pertaining to that shipment. Furthermore, note that U.S. “State” issued export certificates are acceptable and any modifications to the certificates are not allowed once it has been shipped with the accompanying product.

UAE Import Requirements:

The UAE has laid out specific requirements and certifications to ensure quality check of products being imported to the country. Each of these requirements are crucial to clear UAE customs and differ based on the industry you are dealing with.
The UAE maintains stringent standards for imported goods, particularly in sectors of food, pharmaceuticals, and electronics.

1) Food

The UAE Government has mapped out an elaborate advisory for export of food items. The Indian businesses exporting food items must follow the regulations and provisions of food safety and standards prescribed by UAE to avoid any export rejections.
Some of the standards required for exporting food items are as below:

Labeling Requirements

The UAE Government is particular about food labeling and companies are strongly encouraged to adhere to these requirements. It is mandatory that the labels be printed in Arabic only or Arabic/English. Arabic stickers are also acceptable and must mention the following details-
  • Brand Name
  • Product Name
  • Ingredients, in descending order of proportion. 
  • The source of animal fats (beef, buffalo, etc.)
  • Names or “E” numbers of additives, if any
  • Production and expiry dates
  • Manufacturer’s name (distributor or importer)
  • Net weight
  • Country of Origin
  • Barcode
  • Storage Temperature
  • Warnings, if any
  • The method of preparation, if any or instructions for use
  • Nutritional facts

Health Certificate

Exporters are required to submit a health certificate from an authorized Government entity, indicating the fitness of the food item for human consumption. The original certificate must be submitted to the inspector at the port entry during the inspection stage of the consignment.

The health certificate must contain the following details:

  • Logo and Address
  • Issuing Authority
  • Title
  • Certificate Number
  • Date of issue
  • Exporter
  • Importer
  • Item Description
  • Quantity
  • Weight
  • Health Statement
  • Production Date
  • Expiry Date
  • Storage Temperature
  • Authorized signature and stamp

Halal Certificate

For meat, poultry, and its products, exporters must submit a halal certificate notarized by the UAE Embassy or 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. Furthermore, the non- notarized certificates can be returned at any time to acquire notarization within 15 days. The meat exported must be from an approved slaughterhouse only. A slaughterhouse is approved by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

The Halal certificate must contain the following information:

  • Official Logo of the Islamic Association
  • Serial number/date
  • Abattoir’s name and address
  • Item description
  • Brand name
  • Total Quantity/Weight
  • Port of loading
  • Slaughtering date
  • Production/expiry date
  • Producing company and plant
  • Importer
  • Exporter
  • Halal statement
  • Name and signature of authorized person.

While the use of pork fat, as is the case with all pork related products and ingredients, is restricted, pork products are allowed to be sold in certain excluded areas of retail stores and in a few restaurants. Furthermore, 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, such as, they can only be sold to non-Muslims. 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. To clear any confusion for exporters, the following pre-requisites must be followed before export of any product: 
  • Any food or ingredient which is known for causing sensitivity must always be declared beforehand.  
  • The net content must be mentioned in metric units.  
  • 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 should be printed in the following manner, depending upon the shelf life of the product:  
  1. The Day/month/year for products with a shelf life of three (3) months or less.
  2. The Month/year for products with a shelf life longer than three (3) months.

Organic Certificate

For exporters dealing in organic products, the food items claimed to be organic should have Organic Certificate from the accredited body of Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Products originated in India with an “India Organic” certification are permitted to be exported as organic products in the UAE.

GMO Free Certificate

If you are exporting a GMO-free food product, you must procure a GMO-Free Certificate. The original certificate must be submitted to the inspector at the entry port during the inspection stage of the consignment. The certificate must be issued by the authorized bodies of Ministry of Climate Change and Environment

Other Certificates and Regulations

In order to export food products to the UAE, there are no special packaging or container size requirements for food products either. The shipment must be accompanied by the following additional documents:

  • No product which is irradiated can be exported to the UAE and thus a radiation free certificate is required for all food products.
  • Packing List
  • Pork-free diet certificate (for Farmed fish and seafood products)

Furthermore, there are several other aspects that fall under the radar of inspection by the UAE officials. For instance, poultry products are inspected for the presence of any Salmonella. In case any salmonella is detected in more than 20 percent of tested samples, the shipment will be rejected. Moreover, the import of alcoholic beverages is strictly controlled and only a few local companies have the license to import and sell alcoholic beverages in the UAE. These products are exempt from the generalized labelling requirements.

Furthermore, while the import of non-alcoholic beverages is allowed, these cannot comprise of any alcohol content beyond 0.05 %. These products are also exempt from the generalized labelling requirements. As detailed earlier, the sale of pork products is highly regulated and confined to a well-marked section of the country 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.

2) Electrical And Electronic Products

For electronic and electrical equipment, the exporters must comply with the ECAS (Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme) which ensures that appropriate measures are taken for the safety of people, animals, property, and planet. Hence, it necessitates compliance with energy efficiency, safety, and environmental requirements. The scheme is divided into administrative requirements and technical requirements for the manufacturer and their agent in the UAE.

In accordance with ECAS, the exporter must ensure the following criteria:

  • Keep technical documentation for each product range and model, in English and Arabic
  • Type test (or conformance test) all products to IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards.
  • Make sure your factory is inspected regularly by a Notified Body such as BSI.
  • Provide an ECAS Certificate of Conformity from an ESMA Notified Body such as BSI.
  • Register your certified product on the ESMA database.
  • Provide information for customers in Arabic as well as English.

3) Pharmaceutical Products

Based on a 2023 report by Volza, India exports most of its Medicine to United Arab Emirates and is the largest exporter of Medicine in the World. Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers can delve into UAE’s economy with ease owing to the trade pact signed between the two countries. The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) in the UAE is responsible for authorizing the export of pharmaceutical products from India and an approval from MOHAP ensures compliance with national regulations and standards governing the pharmaceutical sector.

In order to export pharmaceutical products in the UAE, the following documents are required:

  • Application form for obtaining an export license for medicines.
  • Purchase invoice, including country of origin, production, and expiry dates.
  • Purchase order from importing country.
  • Approval from MOHAP or health authority of the importing country.

In addition, the Ministry of Health and Prevention has laid out certain conditions and requirements for exporters to follow:

  • The medicine should be registered by MOHAP.
  • The export permit must be valid for two months from the date of approval.
  • The exporter must comply with MOHAP rules and regulations regarding the export of goods from the departure port.
  • All relevant documents are mandatory and must be submitted at the port to the relevant MOHAP inspectors.


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.

However, several 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.

Furthermore, companies with a trade license can import goods into the UAE. A company can obtain a trade license from the Department of Economic Development to import goods into mainland UAE. Companies established in a free zone can use their free zone trade license to import goods into the UAE.

There are specific import restrictions on several 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.

Governing Authorities for Export from India

The GCC Common Customs Law governs the legislation of imports and exports. This Law had been approved by Federal Decree Number 85 of 2007. The GCC Common Customs Law is applicable all over the GCC states and all customs law in UAE are in direct compliance with it.
To export goods in UAE, the exporter is required to provide specific detailed information to the UAE Federal Customs Authority regarding the goods as well as the country of origin. Furthermore, if the products fall within the categories of restricted goods, the exporter is required to acquire prior approval from the specified authority and 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 lists.
  • 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 import and export controls. The Ministry of Economy and Commerce is permitted to impose any bans over 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 public policy. This list of prohibited goods includes drugs, radiation-polluted substances, as well as paintings and drawings contrary to Islamic teachings.

Authorization 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).
  • Telecommunications 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.

List of Prohibited Items

The following list of items are prohibited to be exported to UAE:

  • All kinds of narcotic drugs (considering the control of prohibited items in general and narcotic substances in particular, where certain prohibited goods may be imported or exported subject to producing approvals of the competent authorities).
  • Goods of Israeli origin or bearing Israeli flags and emblems.
  • Gambling tools, machinery, and devices of all kinds.
  • Nylon fishing nets.
  • Live swine.
  • Used, reconditioned, and inlaid tires.
  • Radiation and nuclear fallout contaminated substances.
  • Items that contradict Islamic faith and public morals.
  • E-cigarettes and electronic hookah.
  • Paan and betel leaves.
  • Any other goods or items, the importation of which is prohibited under the Common Customs Law or any other law or regulation applicable in the UAE.
In addition, Indian Government has laid out a list of items prohibited or restricted for export from India. The list is as follows:
  • Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
  • Pornographic and obscene material
  • Counterfeit and pirated goods and goods infringing any legally enforceable intellectual property rights.
  • Antiquities
  • Aero models that operate on high radio bandwidths because of their possible interference with communication networks of security agencies
  • Indian coins which are covered by the Antique and Art Treasure Act, 1972
  • Maps and literature where Indian external boundaries have been shown incorrectly, in view of the Government of India
  • Chemicals mentioned in Schedule 1 to the Chemical Weapons Convention of U.N. 1993
  • Wildlife products: Human skeleton, specified seashells, beef, tallow, fat/oil of animal origin, exotic birds except for a few specified ones, wild animals and their parts and products, specified live birds and animals.


In conclusion, exporting products to the UAE opens the doors of immense potential for Indian manufacturers. However, at the same time, navigating the stringent export process requires meticulous planning, careful adherence to documentation and several certifications. The process can be challenging and requires thorough research for the specific industry.

By obtaining the necessary permits and certifications, Indian exporters can successfully set themselves for success in the dynamic economy of the United Arab Emirates.

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