x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Focus on halal food as Gulfood exhibition opens in Dubai

With such a high demand for religiously sanctified meat, the Gulfood exhibition is dedicating a pavilion to all things halal for the first time in its 19-year history.

Dubai's Annual Food Festival will be held at the World Trade Center. Food security will also be a pressing issue at Gulfood. Chef Cees Goettsch prepares beef for people visiting the Netherlands' hall. Lee Hoagland / The National
Dubai's Annual Food Festival will be held at the World Trade Center. Food security will also be a pressing issue at Gulfood. Chef Cees Goettsch prepares beef for people visiting the Netherlands' hall. Lee Hoagland / The National

The GCC imports US$25 billion worth of halal food every year, a figure that is predicted to rise to $50bn by 2020.

With such a high demand for religiously sanctified meat, the Gulfood exhibition that opens in Dubai today is dedicating a pavilion to all things halal for the first time in its 19-year history.

Halal food consumption is regarded as a key driver of the growth of the global food industry. A report from Thomson-Reuters said global Muslim consumer expenditure last year on food and lifestyle sectors was estimated at $1.62 trillion, about 16.6 per cent of global expenditure. That figure was expected to reach $2.47tn by 2018. Brazil is currently the world’s top exporter of halal meat.

“This year’s show sees the launch of our dedicated halal food platform, Halal World Food, as well as the inaugural World Food Security Summit. This innovative new content will further harness Gulfood’s capacity to drive Dubai’s leading role in steering the global food agenda,” said Helal Al Marri, chief executive of the Dubai World Trade Centre and director general of the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which predicts the 7 per cent yearly growth of the halal food industry to reach $50bn by 2020, the UAE will import $8.4bn of halal foods headed for the region by 2020.

Food security will also be a pressing issue at Gulfood. Up to 90 per cent of all the food consumed in the GCC is imported with little arable land available to farm. Demand for food is set to rise by 50 per cent over the next 20 years across the GCC according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Given the dry desert landscape, many of the countries in the region have turned to purchasing land abroad to grow food. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have 2.8 million hectares overseas, mostly in greenfield sites in North Africa and South Asia.

“Generally in the UAE we are searching for new technologies, greenhouses, investing in seeds that can grow in hot environments,” said Nael Khalil Saifan, chief operating officer at the Abu Dhabi-based agribusiness company Aldahra. “The Mena region needs to invest in research and technology to increase food and agricultural production.”

More than 90 per cent of Aldahra’s core business is growing animal feed, but the company is keen to grow more foodstuffs including rice, grains, potato and wheat for domestic consumption. It has purchased land in Egypt, Morocco and Serbia to grow vegetables and fruit. Its animal feed is grown in South Africa, Pakistan and Portugal.

More than 80,000 trade visitors are expected to attend the five-day Gulfood show, which runs from today through Thursday at the Dubai World Trade Centre, with 4,500 exhibitors from 120 countries.

thamid@thenational.ae