Gulfood 2021
The Gulfood 2021 offers another opportunity for food brands to set up their channels and make headway post-pandemic. But in 2020, online platforms cooked up some significant growth online. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Online sales in the UAE’s food and beverage market surged 255 per cent year-over-year in 2020 to Dh1.5 billion, according to Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It could reach Dh2.27 billion by 2025.

Hassan Al Hashemi, Vice-President of International Relations at Dubai Chamber, described Dubai as a “leading example of a city that has leveraged technology and global partnerships to enhance food security to navigate challenges during COVID-19.”

Al Hashemi identified the pandemic-led digital transformation as a key factor driving exponential growth in F&B e-commerce sales last year, adding that Dubai’s tech infrastructure, logistics facilities, and high internet penetration rate are key elements that supported the trend.

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In full force

The progress in UAE’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign increased national efforts to enhance food security, Expo 2020 Dubai and newly introduced incentives to attract foreign investment will play a major role in sustaining the local F&B industry’s growth, said Al Hashemi.

His presentation identified several high-potential food product categories where the UAE can expand trade with other markets, including grains, vegetables and fruits, vertical crops, healthy and halal food products.

Top partner

Referring to the Dubai market specifically, the presentation identified India as the emirate’s top food trade partner in 2020, accounting for 19 per cent of all food imports, followed by New Zealand (13 per cent), Pakistan (9 per cent), the US, Egypt and Canada (4 per cent each).

Legumes accounted for about 17 per cent of the total food products imported by Dubai during 2020, followed by powdered milk (14 per cent), rice (13 per cent), sugar (9 per cent), onions (7 per cent) and potatoes (5 per cent). The presentation also noted that sugar was a top product re-exported from Dubai to foreign markets in 2020, followed by legumes and dates.