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LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi is attracting growing investment from global food groups who are setting up plants in the Emirate's new industrial zone as they tap rising consumer demand in neighbouring Gulf countries, a top official involved in the project said.
Abu Dhabi is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, real estate and tourism to diversify its economy beyond oil. Among the projects under development is a 418 square kilometre industrial zone called Kizad which is targeting investors in industries including steel, glass, engineered metal products as well as food.
Kizad already has agreements with Brazil's BRF SA , the world's largest chicken exporter, for a $150 million processing plant, and Abu Dhabi's National Food Products Company (NFPC) for a 1.5 billion dirhams ($408.39 million)facility, Kizad's chief executive Khaled Salmeen told Reuters.
He said Kizad hoped to sign deals with other companies this year.
"BRF is a major investment and it serves a lot of the food needs not only for the UAE but the whole GCC," Salmeen said on a visit to London this week.
The six Gulf Cooperation Council states - dependent on imports for 80 to 90 percent of their food - comprise Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
A BRF spokeswoman said it expected to open the Abu Dhabi operation in August and was the group's first international plant producing products including pizzas and hamburgers. "The Middle East is already BRF's most important market accounting for 32 percent of exports," the spokeswoman said.
NFPC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Kizad recorded $739 million in investments in the first quarter of this year - including the food deals - a sharp rise from just over $205 million committed in the whole of 2013. An overall total of 54 investments - valued at $13 billion - have been made in Kizad to date.
Salmeen said with access to the adjacent Khalifa port, other food interests were locating in Kizad including a vegetable oil production plant, a flour mill as well as leading Abu Dhabi date production company Al Foah. Al Foah was not immediately available for comment.
"We have been able to receive the largest ship with livestock coming from Australia with over 25,000 heads of cattle on it. That has already been organised. We are working on how to expand deliveries," he said. (Additional reporting by Maha El Dahan in Abu Dhabi and Caroline Stauffer in Sao Paulo, editing by David Evans)