Dubai – MENA Herald: Highlighting the latest trends and opportunities offered by the UAE, especially Dubai’s food and beverage industry and the emirate’s status as a major food importer and re-exporter, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted Gulfood Breakfast Briefing for visiting international delegates of Gulfood 2016 exhibition at the Chamber premises on Monday.

Besides the Ambassadors of Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Consul General of Sudan, the briefing was attended by over 140 visiting delegates from 26 countries and discussed various ways of strengthening mutual cooperation in the food and beverage industry, mostly in the fast-growing halal food industry as well as Dubai’s strategic location as a food products hub.

In his welcome address, Hassan Al Hashemi, Vice-President, International Relations, Dubai Chamber, stated that as a leading business facilitator, Dubai Chamber strives to provide the local, regional and global food industry representatives a platform to network and meet other like-minded businessmen, to share best practice and seek new opportunities to grow their business.

Al Hashemi pointed out that the development of Dubai’s food manufacturing base which is expanding and supporting the emirate’s endeavour to export food products to the region as the UAE re-exports over half of its imported food to the GCC which can be further expanded, he said.

“Dubai is a significant link in the GCC’s food chain. The emirate is the region’s major re-exporting hub, supported by strong logistics and well-established transportation routes. Domestically, Dubai also has a vibrant F&B sector that will continue to grow at its current fast pace supported by widespread developments across the emirate,” said Al Hashemi.

He also stressed on Dubai’s strong potential to develop its position as a leading halal food hub in line with its vision to become ‘Capital of Islamic Economy’, the important initiative from H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to establish Dubai as the centre of the Islamic economy, which will create opportunities in the halal food industry and will go a long way in supporting the growth of the food and beverage sector, Al Hashemi added.

Shedding light on the trends and opportunities offered by the UAE food market, Al Hashemi informed that the country’s food market experienced rising fresh food sales volumes while also showing growth in the soft drink/packaged tea and coffee retail sales as well as restaurant and fast food sales volumes, he said.

“The UAE fresh food sales is forecasted to increase from around 2.8 million tonnes in 2015 to around 3.6 million tonnes in 2019 while the retail value of packaged food sales is forecasted to rise from around AED 16 billion in 2015 to around AED 23.1 billion by 2019, growing at with a CAGR of around 10% during this period.

“Also the increasing soft drink retail sales value is forecasted to grow by a CAGR of around 10% between 2015 and 2019 while the hot drink sales including packed tea and coffee is forecasted to increase by a CAGR of 9% during the same period, according to statistics based on Euromonitor International findings,” said Al Hashemi

He also said that Dubai is looking to establish partnerships with food growers in Africa and the CIS, using Dubai as a production base, as the Chamber will be helping to facilitate this area through its international offices now operating in Ethiopia, Ghana and Azerbaijan.

The Chamber’s focus moving forward is to position Dubai as a gateway into and out of African and a link to the CIS countries. This is something which will be of benefit to the food and beverages industry, said Al Hashemi.

A presentation by Omar Khan, Director, International Offices, Dubai Chamber, gave an overview of Dubai and UAE’s business climate, the emirate’s GDP growth in 2015 and outlook for 2016 along with sustained growth in trade and commerce, tourism and hospitality as well as the Chamber’s innovation and international expansion strategies. It also provided information about the value-added services provided to the trading community for setting up business in the emirate.

The 21st edition of the five-day long Gulfood 2016 being held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 21 to 25 February is the biggest and is expected to attract more than 5,000 international companies from 120 Arab and global countries.