The important role that countries from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) can play in enhancing the UAE’s food security has been highlighted in an analysis released by Dubai Chamber
Titled: ‘Dubai food and beverage trade with ASEAN,’ the report analyses the areas where the 10 ASEAN member states can contribute to the UAE’s food and beverage (F&B) sector, something that the chamber says is highly significant in view of the UAE importing around 85 per cent of the total food it consumes.
“A key pillar of the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy 2051 is to diversify the country’s international sources of food, an imperative that was brought home during the coronavirus pandemic that had a major impact on global supply chains. As a country with a growing population, and one that is unable to grow its own food at scale, identifying markets that can supply us with produce is a national priority. ASEAN countries represent one such important market,” said Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber.
“This new analysis, compiled by Dubai, aims to show where the gaps in food trade lie, with the report aiming to be beneficial for ASEAN-based traders as well as importers and exporters located in Dubai and the UAE. Along with climate change, food security is the worlds’ most pressing global issue and identifying key areas of improving bi-lateral trade in food is vital to ensure adequate food supplies for all,” he added.
The release of the analysis comes ahead of the first ever Global Business Forum (GBF) ASEAN, organised by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai on December 8-9 at the Expo site. The forum, which will be held under the theme ‘The New Frontiers,’ aims to explore the changing dynamics of ASEAN countries and examines the opportunities to increase bilateral trade, business and investment between the regions.
The analysis highlights that over the past ten years, Dubai had a deficit in its trade balance in food and beverage products with the ASEAN region, meaning that there is strong potential for ASEAN countries to increase their food exports to the emirate. It cites Dubai Customs’ figures that show that in 2020, Dubai’s F&B imports from ASEAN reached Dh2.99 billion. The figure was 8.4 per cent lower than the 2019 level because of Covid-19 export restrictions on food applied by ASEAN countries, with Vietnam and the Philippines banning the export of rice and Thailand restricting the export of eggs.
The analysis details that the UAE was the second largest recipient of ASEAN food exports to the GCC, its share being around 34 per cent in 2020. It reports that the share of ASEAN in Dubai’s food and beverage imports from the world was 6.9 per cent in 2020, but with food exports lifted, the ASEAN region has the chance to increase its share in Dubai’s food imports, something that will boost the nation’s food security.
A breakdown analysis
With respect to individual partners within the ASEAN region, Dubai Chamber’s reports that in 2020, Dubai had a deficit in its trade balance in food and beverage with all ASEAN countries except Singapore (Dh70 million), Cambodia (Dh14.7 million) and Brunei (Dh29.4 million).
At 22 per cent, Thailand represented the highest share in Dubai’s food and beverage imports from ASEAN countries last year, with Vietnam and Indonesia both at 20 per cent, Malaysia at 18 per cent and the Philippines at 10 per cent. These five countries accounted for 90 per cent of Dubai’s food and beverage imports from the ASEAN region in 2020.
In terms of products, Dubai Chamber’s analysis reports that ASEAN countries represent more than a 70 per cent share in Dubai’s imports of palm oil and prepared fish from the world, with almost one-third of the emirate’s imported coffee and tea extracts also coming from the ASEAN region. Other products of note that ASEAN countries export to Dubai include avocados, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, dried leguminous vegetables and coconuts, with the report stating that there are more opportunities for ASEAN traders to increase their food exports to Dubai.
The analysis also points to a huge opportunity existing with the exports of rice to Dubai, which is one of the world’s largest rice importers. It states that ASEAN traders could also consider Dubai as a re-export hub and increase their exports to the Middle East and African countries using the emirate’s advanced logistics and infrastructure.
In addition to outlining the potential for ASEAN countries to improve the UAE’s food security through imports, the report also details Dubai’s food exports to the ASEAN region. The emirate’s largest partner in this respect was Thailand, which took around one-third of Dubai’s F&B exports to ASEAN countries, with other significant countries including Malaysia, at 23 per cent, Vietnam, at 19 per cent and Singapore, at 10 per cent.
Singapore represented the largest partner of Dubai in re-exports of food and beverage products to ASEAN in 2020, its share of 54 per cent, reflecting its status as a regional trading hub. The other large re-exports partners in the region include Vietnam and Malaysia both at 16 per cent and Thailand at seven per cent.
The paper also draws attention to opportunities for Dubai traders in increasing their exports to the ASEAN region, citing the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which reports that the total ASEAN population reached 667 million in 2020, creating significant food export opportunities for Dubai traders. It recommended in particular that Dubai traders should explore the Philippines food market, with the country having a population of 109.6 million - the second largest in the region after Indonesia.