The UAE was the 15th biggest importer of food trade in 2012, according to the “International Trade Statistics 2013” report published by World Trade Organization (WTO), with imports worth $16bn, constituting 1.1% of the world’s imports.
According to the same report, the annual percentage increase in imports of food into the UAE in 2012 was 13%.
The European Union topped the list with import value of $531bn, while USA came second ($117), China third ($91), Mexico 8th, KSA 10th, India 11th, Malaysia 12th and Egypt 14th.
According to WTO Secretariat estimates, 15 countries exported $1121bn worth of food, holding 81.5% share of the world’s exports in 2012. These countries in descending order are: European Union, USA, China, Canada, Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, India, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Mexico, Vietnam and New Zealand.
These figures were released by Youssef Jammal, a regional hospitality expert based in the UAE and the head of hospitality and retail in H Holding.
Jammal said the Gulf food industry has grown exponentially due to changes in lifestyle and higher inflow of expatriates in the Gulf.
He added: “This has underlined the critical importance for efficient food logistics through world class manpower and state of the art technology.”
Ibrahim Al Sheikh, General Manager, Monte Carlo Stars in Marina Dubai, a leading entertainment attraction that is owned by H Holding added: “The food sector is poised for further growth in the Gulf in general and the UAE in particular due to the population growth, booming tourism, economic development and rising purchasing power of Gulf nationals and expatriates.”
Jammal anticipated a higher investment inflow into the UAE food industry in 2014, as direct fallout of Dubai winning the bid for hosting Expo 2020.
Al Sheikh added: “With the proliferation of local food producers and manufacturers deploying best technologies, reliance on food imports will decrease and we might be in a position to increase Gulf’s export footprint to other parts of the world.”
The WTO figures reflect the significance of the UAE market in the food industry. The UAE is a re-export center for not only the Middle East but also to North African and Asian markets.
“With population rise, growing incomes and changing demographics, the Gulf will have another round of growth on the back of the one witnessed at the start of the last decade. The region will continue to rely on imports; however, local brands will take a significant portion of this import in the coming years,” concluded Al Sheikh.
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