THE UAE’s imports of food worth $16 billion in 2012 has made it the 15th biggest food importer, according to the World Trade Organisation.
WTO statistics also showed its imports constituted 1.1 per cent of the world’s imports. The findings reveal that the annual percentage increase in shipments into the country from overseas was 13 per cent.
Top of the list was the European Union with an import value of $531 billion with the US coming second at $117 billion and China third at $91 billion.
The UAE is also a prominent re-export centre for food.
According to WTO Secretariat estimates, 15 countries exported $1,121 billion worth of food, holding an 81.5 per cent share of the world’s exports in 2012. These countries and regions in descending order are: European Union, the US, 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 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 a direct fallout of the successful bid by Dubai 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 the Gulf’s export footprint to other parts of the world.”
The UAE is a re-export centre for not only the Middle East but also for North African and Asian markets.