Gulf food imports worth over US$12 billion a year
New research reveals that, in recent years, the Middle East has become one of the most important food and drink markets in the world. Residents of the UAE and other Gulf states spend US$ 9.5 billion annually on foods consumed outside their homes.
According to the latest report from analysts BIS Shrapnel, Foodservice in the Middle East - the UAE, 2005 – 2006, the UAE foodservice market alone is worth a massive Dh16 billion (US$4.36 billion), and predicted to grow by a rate of 11% per annum over 2005 and 2006.
The new comes as the region is gearing up for its largest food and hospitality event, as applications continue to pour in for exhibition space at Gulfood 2006. The 11th Gulf Food, Hotel and Equipment Exhibition and Salon Culinaire, organised by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), will be held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) from 19th to 22nd February 2006.
Statistics from the World Bank show the GCC’s annual food imports alone exceeded USD 12 billion in 2004. More than 90 percent of the region’s food and beverage needs are imported. When the associated value of equipment, expertise and hospitality is added in, it represents one of the largest areas of economic growth in the region.
Not surprisingly, with such significant opportunities for business development on offer, Gulfood has become the largest food show of its kind in the region, eclipsing the efforts of its competitors.
“Gulfood is one of the most dynamic exhibitions held within the Middle East, attracting manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, representing all the key sectors within food and hospitality, from over 60 countries. Its global standing is a reflection of the massive development of the region’s hospitality and tourism sectors over the past decade and of the rising international interest in the Middle East as a food market,” said Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of the DWTC.
“The 2006 event occurs at an important time for the region’s food industry, with changes in legislation, the expanding profile and power of local food producers, and increased competition from international brands all combining to make the Middle East one of the most interesting world markets,” added Al Marri.
Last year’s show saw exhibitor numbers increase by a third, the number of national pavilions jump by 50 percent and visitors more than double over the previous edition. This has prompted the organisers to respond to the growing market demands by increasing the frequency of the show making Gulfood an annual event.
The trade-only show is considered a must for local, regional and international professionals from the food and beverage, hotel, technology, catering, foodservice, supermarket, equipment and restaurant sectors. More than 30,000 trade visitors from over 120 countries are expected to sample wares that range from Australian freshwater lobsters to Canadian maple syrup to Japanese coffee to Emirati pickles.
With exhibitors from more than 70 countries, new national groups on the food side include Denmark, Serbia and South Africa together with Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Korea, Taiwan and USA joining Gulfood for the first time in the equipment section.
Also new to Gulfood 2006 is the Dubai International Food Safety Conference, organised by the Public Health Department of Dubai Municipality. Industry experts from the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have been invited to debate on a number of crucial issues facing the food safety industry today. Topics will include international and local standards and regulations, food safety systems, food labelling and documentations, risk analysis and e-certification.
“Gulfood is the ideal environment in which to discuss key issues facing the food industry, one of which is food safety. Over the past few years the exhibition has expanded beyond the buying and selling of food, food services and equipment. It is now a unique and valuable networking opportunity for industry professionals, keeping up to date with and reflecting global trends and concerns,” concluded Al Marri.