International F&B companies see great potential in UAE as regional hub


Visitors at the Gulfood 2021 exhibition at DWTC - Photo by Juidin Bernarrd
Visitors at the Gulfood 2021 exhibition at DWTC - Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Dubai - Experts say that the Gulfood exhibition attracts key industry players from other big and relevant markets from the Mena region such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt


Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Mon 22 Feb 2021, 2:09 PM

International F&B companies that are looking for growth opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region have crowned the UAE as their ‘perfect’ gateway into region, experts said at the 26th edition of the Gulfood exhibition.

Speaking to Khaleej Times at the event, Frederic Szabo, MD of Business France Middle East, said that the UAE has always been seen as a base of operations for many international companies that are interested in expanding their presence to the rest of the GCC region.

“You have access to economies such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, which are all big markets with lots of potential,” he said. “Of course, we have to watch and monitor the situation very carefully because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we believe in the strength of Dubai and the UAE as a regional hub to address countries such as Kuwait, KSA, and maybe even India and the African markets.”

With approximately Dh1.77 billion worth of exports in 2019, France ranks as the ninth major food product supplier to the UAE. The country is participating at Gulfood 2021 with 30 companies that are showcasing a range of the latest products such as almond milk, organic F&B dairy, and gluten free meals.

Szabo noted that a key theme of the country’s participation at the event this year revolves around great quality products that still fall in the affordable range. French F&B products are a trusted part of many UAE kitchens and will continue to remain so, he said.

Similarly, Sergio Ricardo Segovia Barbosa, president of Apex-Brasil and the Brazil Commissioner for Expo 2020 Dubai, said that the UAE is among the top priority markets mapped by Apex-Brasil. The Gulfood exhibition, he added, attracts key industry players coming from other big and relevant markets from the Mena region such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Egypt.

“Dubai is a hub city of the region, considered a trade and supply platform for exporters seeking new sales in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia,” he said. “If we can successfully introduce a product in the UAE market, then we know that there is room for its growth in other territories in the region as well.”

Among the advantages pointed out by Apex-Brasil to do business with the Middle East partner is the progressive diversification of the country's economy, which is reducing its vulnerability to oil price movements in comparison with other Gulf States, which gives more security to Brazilian exporters to negotiate with companies based in the country.

In 2020, Brazilian agribusiness exports to the Middle East represented 6.08 per cent ($5.69 billion) of the sector’s total exports to the world. There was a jump from $645 million in business done in 2015 to about $1.4 billion traded in 2019. Market studies conducted by Apex-Brasil indicate that the subsectors that present opportunities for Brazilian products, together, corresponded to $10.8 billion in imports from countries in the region and $4.2 billion in Brazilian exports to the same markets.

Scott Hanna, senior business development manager for Retail, Hospitality and Technology at Invest Northern Ireland, said that the UAE and the wider GCC are premium markets and have a high import capacity for products such as dairy, oats and gourmet food, which offers significant opportunities for Northern Irish exporters.

“Consumers are becoming ever more mindful of the environmental impact of commercial farming practices,” he said. “Northern Ireland’s food and drink sector is characterised by a commitment to high ethical and environmental standards with food producers who are dedicated to quality and traceability. This has been key to our successful export growth to the Gulf and over 70 countries word wide. We look forward to showcasing the best of Northern Ireland’s foods to the region as we continue to build on our close relationships across the GCC.”

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