x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gulfood expo prompts Ecuador to boost UAE ties

The trade agreement will see the South American country boost exports of products such as bananas and coffee.

Francisco Rivadeneira, Equador’s minister of international trade, believes there is a huge potential for the country's banana exports to connect in the UAE market. Ivan Kashinsky / Bloomberg News
Francisco Rivadeneira, Equador’s minister of international trade, believes there is a huge potential for the country's banana exports to connect in the UAE market. Ivan Kashinsky / Bloomberg News

Equador plans to strengthen ties with the UAE by signing a trade agreement that will see the South American country boost exports of products such as bananas and coffee.

“If all goes well today, I am going to sign an agreement with the Emirates which is a general agreement to help us to organise trade in the future,” Francisco Rivadeneira, Equador’s minister of international trade, said at the Gulfood expo opening in Dubai today.

Gulfood is the world’s biggest food and hospitality show.

“We are not thinking about negotiating a more specific trade agreement because of the Jebel Ali Free Zone most of our products can connect with this market without pre tariffs,” said Mr Rivadeneira. “We believe there is huge potential for our bananas and their value added products, our coffee, [and] our chocolate [which] uses the finest cocoa in the world and is used to blend the finest Swiss chocolates.

“Also our fishery products. We are one of the world’s biggest suppliers of tuna to the world, with different varieties and presentations and our shrimp farming is renowned worldwide for its quality,” he said.

Gulfood has attracted more than 4,500 exhibitors from 120 countries exhibiting food and beverage. Countries as well as companies are represented in different pavilions but all are flying the flag for trade.

Mr Rivedeneira said the UAE could provide opportunities for his country to target the upmarket travel sector and those happy to pay a higher price for Ecuador’s high quality products.

“Food imports are growing massively to the UAE with US$53.1 billion worth of food imports expected to be moved through the UAE by 2020, according to Euromonitor,” said Mark Napier, the director of Gulfood.

“For many exhibitors here their home markets are delivering minimal returns, whereas here we have a region and a country that is on a major growth curve. Tourism is only growing and with the expo looking to generate 25 million visitors over a six-month period that is going to create an enormous demand.

“It’s a conservative estimate that over $1bn worth of trade value takes place over the course of this event,” Mr Napier added.

“Some [operators] of the national pavilions from last year have reported double the amount of trade as a direct result of participation here. The Kenyan ambassador announced its trade had soared more than 100 per cent with the Middle East after its participation last year.”

International exhibitors regard the event as a way of connecting with the region but also of launching products. Singapore, a country that imports ore than 90 per cent of its food, sees the possibility of the UAE exporting to the South East Asian state.

“Dubai and Singapore have mirrored each other as a trade, air and finance hubs the strategies are very similar we even import 98 per cent of our food,” said Lester Lu, the regional director of International Enterprise Singapore.

“Here you have land, where we do not, so hyrdoponics is possible, the UAE could be a big powerhouse in food, we have no land so most of our food is imported. The authorities are encouraging all industries here, so maybe food from here could become an unexpected hit,” he said.

“Over the past five years at Gulfood we have seen 5 to 6 per cent growth each year, in 2012 we recorded US$238 million worth of sales from the show and we have 48 Singaporean companies this year.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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