Irish exports to the United Arab Emirates have almost doubled since 2009 and now stand at €36m. This growth was driven primarily by seafood, dairy and infant formula. In order to capitalise on this growth, Bord Bia led a study visit to the market coinciding with this year’s Dubai Seafood Expo.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimate that the UAE retail sector is worth €4.7billion. Within this sector, only 25% of the food available is produced domestically. Due to the high level of expats and changing tastes among locals, many of the retailers including Carrefour, Choithrams and Spinneys cater to western tastes.
The UAE foodservice market is increasing by 11% per annum and is valued at €2.7billion. According to Conor Ryan, Director of Pan Euro Foods, “the food service market demands a very high quality product which is something Ireland can really offer”. There is a huge demand in this sector for live seafood such as oysters, crab and mussels. Mr Ryan attributes this to the desire of local chefs to “add their stamp” to the produce they buy.
In 2011, €291m worth of seafood was imported by the UAE. Food consumption is growing at a rate of 12% per annum. In order to meet this increasing demand, imports will continue to play an important role.
A number of Irish seafood companies participated in the Bord Bia led study, which included one to one meetings with potential customers, retail store audits and a workshop with presentations from retail and foodservice experts. The trip successfully identified new business opportunities for Irish seafood in the region.