With high regard for quality produce and a bedrock of UK consumers and visitors, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could be a springboard into other Gulf markets for UK exporters
Despite a population of more than nine million people, its agricultural and food production is limited, with the country 85 per cent dependant on food imports and food security an important priority for its Government.
Situated on the Persian Gulf coast, Dubai also acts as a re-export centre to the rest of the gulf, presenting opportunities to markets in those locations as well as East Africa and in some cases, South East Asia.
John Giles, divisional director with Promar International, who has worked on assignments in more than 60 countries assessing agri-food market opportunities and supply chain developments, encouraged UK exporters to trade on its reputation for high quality produce in the UAE and build on the bedrock of UK customers and visitors.
Mr Giles said: “With a wealthy local Emirati population, supplemented by approximately 100,000 expatriate British consumers and 500,000 UK tourists annually, demand for UK products is high.
“UK food companies also need to look outside the established routes to market and consider the UAE as a springboard into other Gulf markets.
“There is a lot to play for in the Gulf and the UK is probably as well positioned as anyone to take advantage of this.”
He added while the retail sector in UAE is highly competitive, UK retailers are very active within it.
“Marks and Spencer’s and Waitrose have their own stores, Spinneys has very strong links to Waitrose, Choithrams have a relationship with Tesco since 2014 and Lulu have strong connections to the UK,” Mr Giles said.
“Go into any of these retail chains and you will find a full range of UK products available ranging from cheese, confectionery, fruit, milk, meat, biscuits, snacks, sauces and condiments, breakfast and other bakery goods.
UAE also has a ‘booming’ foodservice in normal times, with numerous high standards hotels and restaurants catering for tourists and business visitors, Mr Giles highlighted.
“There are also modern UK themed restaurants and UK chefs operating in the UAE market,” he said.
“Opportunities also exist in airline catering, with Dubai a major regional hub, as well as opportunities to supply the cruise line business.”
However, Mr Giles warned the competitive environment in the UAE could be challenging, with the Ireland, France, New Zealand, Australia, the US, India, China and Turkey active in the market.
“Tariff rates are normally 5 per cent for all suppliers,” Mr Giles said.
“Non-tariff barriers, such as labelling regulations can be tricky at times, but a good consolidator in the UK will deal with this and other areas, such as customs procedures and clearance.
“Many UK exporters use the so-called ‘consolidators’ who bring together mixed shipments of UK products and either air or sea freight them on an almost daily basis to the Gulf, with excellent transport links to the region.”