Steel Production and Trade in the UAE: What You Need to Know

Steel Production and Trade in the UAE: What You Need to Know

January 24, 2024

Steel Production and Trade in the UAE: What You Need to Know

Ever wondered where all the steel comes from to build those towering skyscrapers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi? The United Arab Emirates has developed into a major hub for steel production and trade in the Middle East over the last few decades. You may not realise it, but the UAE now ranks among the top 20 steel-producing countries in the world.The local steel industry contributes significantly to the UAE’s economy and supports many jobs, especially in the construction sector.

If you’re curious to learn more about how steel is made and traded in the UAE, read on. This article will give you an overview of the key players, latest trends, challenges and opportunities in the Emirati steel market. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding of what makes this industry tick.

This blog covers:

Overview of the Steel Industry in the UAE

As the UAE continues its path towards economic diversification, the steel sector provides materials needed for construction and infrastructure projects across the country. With ongoing investments in new production facilities and technologies, the UAE steel industry is poised for continuous growth and success in the coming years.

The UAE’s steel production has grown rapidly, increasing more than sixfold since 2000. Demand for steel products in the construction, infrastructure, oil and gas sectors has fuelled this growth. The UAE is now the second-largest steel producer in the Middle East.

The UAE imports most of the steel and steel products it consumes. The country has limited domestic steel production, so it relies heavily on imports to meet demand. The top sources of steel imports are China, India, South Korea, and Ukraine. The most common steel products imported are hot rolled coils, rebars, wire rods, and plates.

While domestic demand is strong, excess steel production is exported. The UAE exports steel products like reinforcing bars (rebar), wire rods and sections to countries in the Middle East, North Africa, the Americas, and Asia. These exports generate significant revenue and help diversify the UAE’s economy away from oil.

To meet increasing demand, the UAE plans to expand steel production capacity by over 60% to around 15 million tonnes per year by 2030. New mills and production methods like direct reduced iron (DRI) will boost supply. The UAE aims to become a leading global hub for steel trade and build a sustainable, competitive steel industry.

The Future of Steel in the UAE

The steel industry is a major driver of the UAE’s economy and trade. As the country continues its rapid development, the demand for steel is projected to increase significantly in the coming decades.Several factors point to a bright future for steel in the UAE:

Infrastructure and construction projects

Some of the world’s largest construction projects are underway in the UAE, including Dubai Creek Tower, Bluewaters Island, and the Dubai Eye Ferris Wheel. These massive builds require enormous amounts of steel and will fuel demand for years to come.

A growing population

The UAE’s population has skyrocketed over the last 20 years and is expected to continue rising, especially as expatriates are attracted to job opportunities. More people means a greater need for steel to build residential and commercial properties.

Vision 2030 development plans

The UAE government's long-term development strategies aim to diversify the economy into knowledge-based industries, expand renewable energy, and build advanced infrastructure. These plans will rely heavily on steel and drive growth in the industry.

Free trade zones and foreign investment.

The UAE's business-friendly environment, tax-free trade zones, and stable political climate attract significant foreign investment and multinational companies. New businesses and industrial projects bring opportunities for steel manufacturers and traders.

Steel Trade in the UAE - Exports and Imports

The UAE has a thriving steel trade market, both importing and exporting steel products. As the UAE does not have its own iron ore deposits to produce steel, it relies heavily on imports. The major exporters of steel to the UAE are China, India, Turkey, South Korea and Ukraine.

Steel Imports
The UAE imports various steel products, like hot rolled coils, steel bars, steel beams, steel plates, steel pipes and tubes, to meet the demands of its construction and infrastructure sectors. These imports accounted for over USD 7 billion in 2020, making the UAE the largest importer of steel in the Middle East. The UAE’s substantial construction projects and infrastructure developments drive its steel import market.

Steel Exports
While the UAE imports most of the steel it consumes, it has also developed into a leading steel exporter and re-exporter in the region. The UAE exports steel products like steel plates, steel bars, steel beams and steel pipes to countries in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

The UAE’s strategic geographic location, advanced port infrastructure and free trade zones have enabled it to become a leading exporter and re-exporter of steel. Steel traders and distributors in free zones like the UAQ Free Trade Zone import steel products in large volumes, warehouse them and then re-export them to other countries.This has made the UAE a dominant force in the regional steel trade.

The steel trade, both imports and exports, contributes significantly to the UAE’s economy. By understanding the UAE’s steel trade market, you can gain useful insights into the country’s construction sector demands, infrastructure development and economic diversification plans. The UAE’s steel trade is a key sector to anticipate new opportunities in the Emirates.

Steel Manufacturing and Trading Opportunities in the UAE

Steel Bars Manufacturing
Steel bars are essential materials used extensively in construction. In the UAE, steel bars - also known as reinforcing bars or rebars - are produced from steel billets that are first heated and then rolled into the required shape and size.

The UAE has a fast-growing steel bar manufacturing sector, with many steel mills and factories producing high-quality steel bars to supply the country’s booming construction industry. Some of the largest steel bar producers in the UAE are Emirates Steel, Foulath and Senaat. These companies use state-of-the-art equipment and technology to produce steel bars of various sizes and strengths for different applications like reinforcement of concrete, bridges, buildings, etc.

The UAE also has a thriving steel bar trading market, importing and exporting steel bars worldwide. Traders buy steel bars from local manufacturers as well as import them from other countries like China, India, Turkey and Ukraine. The steel bars are then sold domestically to construction companies and contractors in the UAE, as well as exported to other countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Some key factors affecting the steel bar manufacturing and trading market in the UAE include:

  • Demand from the construction sector: The UAE’s construction boom fuels demand for steel bars. More building projects mean higher demand and opportunities for steel bar makers and traders.
  • Raw material costs: The costs of steel billets and other raw materials used to make steel bars impact the overall production costs and profit margins of steel bar manufacturers. Traders also have to account for raw material costs when importing and selling steel bars.
  • Government policies: Government policies like import duties, quotas and subsidies on steel products can influence the competitive position of local steel bar manufacturers versus imported steel bars. Traders also have to work within the government’s policy framework.
  • Global steel prices: Steel bar prices in the global market affect the competitive position of UAE’s steel exports versus imports. When global prices are high, it is more profitable to export steel bars. When prices are low, it is cheaper to import steel bars. Manufacturers and traders have to adapt to price changes in the international steel bar market.

Steel Pipes and Fittings Manufacturing

The UAE has a fast-growing steel pipe and fitting manufacturing industry. Several factors have contributed to the rapid expansion of this sector:

Raw Materials Access
The UAE has ready access to raw materials needed for steel pipe production, like iron ore and coal. Major steelmakers source iron ore from Brazil and Australia, while coal is imported from Indonesia, Australia, and South Africa. With its strategic location, advanced port infrastructure and logistics hub status, the UAE can efficiently import these raw materials.

Cheap Energy
Steel pipe manufacturing requires massive amounts of energy. The UAE offers cheap energy in the form of natural gas, which steelmakers use as a source of fuel in the production process. The low cost of energy in the UAE significantly reduces the cost of steel pipe manufacturing.

Investor-Friendly Policies
The government has put in place investor-friendly policies like tax incentives, subsidies, and special economic zones with additional benefits for manufacturers. These policies attract major steelmakers to set up manufacturing bases in the UAE.

Steel pipes and fittings refer to tubes, couplings, elbows, tees, and valves used for transporting liquids and gases.They have applications in industries like oil and gas, construction, engineering, and infrastructure. The growing oil and gas and construction sectors in the UAE and the wider Middle East region have driven the demand for steel pipes.This demand, combined with the availability of raw materials and affordable energy in the UAE, has spurred many companies to establish steel pipe manufacturing plants in the country.

Reinforcement Steel Bars Trading

Steel reinforcement bars, commonly known as rebars, are essential for construction. As the UAE continues its ambitious infrastructure projects, the demand for high-quality rebar is increasing. If you’re looking to get into the rebar trading business in the UAE, here are some key things you should know.

The UAE imports most of its rebars since local steel production can’t meet demand. China and India are major suppliers, though trade disputes and politics can impact supply. Having multiple international suppliers is key to ensuring consistent inventory.

  • Quality and certification are crucial. Rebars must meet strict standards for strength, durability and safety. Only buy from mills with quality certifications like ISO 9001. Check rebars have grade certification (e.g. 420 or 500) and meet ASTM or BS standards. Inferior rebars won’t pass inspection and could fail in construction.
  • Relationships and networks matter. Work closely with suppliers to ensure on-time delivery of orders. Also build connections with contractors, engineers and developers who will buy the rebars. Learn their specific needs and stock rebars they commonly use.
  • Logistics require planning. Importing rebars involves paperwork, shipping, handling and storage. Work with a reputable shipping/freight forwarding company to ensure rebars arrive on schedule and without damage. Have storage facilities for different types of rebars.
  • Pricing depends on many factors. Rebar prices fluctuate based on the global steel market but also depend on supplier relationships, shipping costs, tariffs, and demand in the UAE. Stay on top of trends in the steel and construction industries to effectively price your rebars.

The rebar trading business in the UAE does present challenges, but with the right strategy and execution, it can also be rewarding. Focus on quality, build a robust network, have efficient logistics and keep a close eye on pricing. Do these, and you’ll have solid foundations for success in this market.

Stainless Steel Products Manufacturing

The stainless steel industry is an important part of the manufacturing sector in the UAE. If you’re looking to start or expand into stainless steel products manufacturing, here are some key points to consider:
Demand for stainless steel in the UAE is growing steadily. Stainless steel is used extensively in architecture, transport infrastructure like railways, and many consumer goods. The UAE’s booming construction industry and rising income levels are fueling higher demand for stainless steel products.

Raw materials are readily available: The UAE has a well-established steel industry and trades heavily in raw materials like iron ore, chromium, and nickel, which are essential for stainless steel production. These raw materials can be sourced locally at competitive prices.

Low energy costs: Electricity and natural gas are subsidised in the UAE, so energy costs for operating stainless steel manufacturing facilities are relatively low. This can help boost profit margins for stainless steel producers.

Strategic location: The UAE’s strategic location and advanced infrastructure like ports, airports, and roads make it an ideal hub for exporting stainless steel products to the wider Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Manufacturers can leverage the UAE’s logistics advantages to distribute products globally.

Government support: The UAE government actively supports the growth of priority sectors like steel manufacturing through initiatives like tax incentives, infrastructure development, and the creation of special economic zones with business-friendly regulations. These policies create a conducive environment for stainless steel producers.

While competition from low-cost stainless steel producers in Asia may pose challenges, the strong demand, availability of inputs, low costs, logistical advantages and government backing make the UAE an attractive destination for stainless steel product manufacturing. The sector shows a lot of promise for future growth.

UAQ Free Trade Zone for Logistic Advantage

The proximity of Umm Al-Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQ FTZ) to the UAQ port offers several advantages for logistics in the steel manufacturing business:

Efficient Transportation: Proximity to the UAQ port ensures efficient transportation of raw materials, finished steel products, and other supplies. This can lead to reduced transportation costs and faster turnaround times.

Strategic Shipping Routes: UAQ's location on the west coast of the UAE provides easy access to major shipping routes. This strategic positioning can be advantageous for steel manufacturing businesses engaged in international trade, facilitating the movement of goods to and from global markets.

Reduced Transit Times: Proximity to the port means shorter transit times for imports and exports. This is particularly crucial for industries like steel manufacturing, where timely delivery of raw materials and finished products is essential.

Cost Savings: The reduced distance between the manufacturing facility in UAQ FTZ and the UAQ port can contribute to cost savings in terms of transportation expenses. This is especially important for heavy and bulky steel products.

Apart from these, UAQ FTZ comes with several advantages, like pro-business policies and 100% foreign ownership of businesses, providing an attractive option for international investors and companies looking to establish a presence in the UAE.


Why is location important for steel manufacturing and trading?
As an industry that is heavily dependent on logistics, location is very important for steel manufacturing and trading in the UAE. UAQ FTZ is strategically located on the west coast of the UAE, providing proximity to major ports and shipping routes. This facilitates the easy import and export of steel products.

What types of steel products can be manufactured in the UAE?
Steel bars for structural reinforcement, steel pipes and fittings, and other steel products based on market demand can be manufactured in the UAE. The UAQ FTZ's industrial and commercial licences support the production of steel bars, steel pipes and fittings, and reinforcement steel bar trading.


As you can see, the steel industry plays an important role in the UAE economy. The country has come a long way from relying on imported steel to now producing millions of tonnes per year and exporting to markets around the world. The industry is set to continue growing to meet increasing demand from large infrastructure and construction projects in the UAE and beyond.

The next time you see an impressive skyscraper or bridge in the UAE, you'll know that locally produced steel likely contributed to making it a reality. The steel sector has been crucial for the development of the country and will only become more so in the years to come. If you're looking for opportunities in a fast-growing industry, the UAE steel market is one to watch.

Although the steel industry faces challenges like oversupply in global markets, stiff competition from cheaper producers, and price volatility, the outlook for steel in the UAE remains positive. Visionary development, strategic plans for economic expansion, and a boom in construction should create steady demand and enable steel producers to tap into new opportunities. The steel sector is poised to strengthen its role as a driving force of trade, growth, and progress in the UAE for years to come.

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