Dr. Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water and Khalid Al Fahim during the opening of the 3rd Gulfood Manufacturing 2016,at Dubai Trade Center. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News

DUBAI: The UAE food sales are projected to reach $16.7 billion (Dh61.3 billion) with an annual average growth of 7.3 per cent by 2020, according to a new BMI report commissioned by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

The report was released alongside the opening of DWTC’s annual trio of specialist foods shows, running along the Gulfood Manufacturing 2016, which opened in Dubai on Monday.

Rashid Bin Ahmad Bin Fahd, the UAE Minister of State, opened the 2016 edition of Gulfood Manufacturing, the Speciality Food Festival, SEAFEX and the newly-named Yummex Middle East. This year’s event also saw the debut of the Global Date Market — a specialist sourcing platform for date products that unites the region’s leading date producers with top hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and other end sellers.

The heightened domestic demand for niche food products is reflected in 10 per cent growth across the three finished food shows, according to Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice-President, Exhibitions & Events Management, DWTC.

“Our well-established finished food platforms have yielded double-digit year-on-year growth in terms of floor space and total exhibitor participation this year,” said LohMirmand. “This growth highlights the strategic significance that global food suppliers place on the UAE as both a lucrative sales market and re-export hub to the wider region.”

Owing to high income levels and rising affluence among UAE consumers, the report suggests “premiumisation” will spur the domestic food industry’s growth until the end of the decade. The claim is supported by the fact the average UAE household spends more on premium and gourmet products than equivalent households in the US, Japan, the UK, Korea and China.

Approximately 26 per cent of UAE households are forecast to earn more than $75,000 in 2017 and the average household earning is predicted to increase by 27.8 per cent by 2020.

The UAE’s seafood demand is also set for rapid growth over the next four years, with an eight per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in fish and fish product sales in the country alone leading up to 2020.

On the other hand, the confectionery sector here is anticipated to grow with total chocolate and sweets sales growing by 6.2 per cent CAGR by 2020 and per capita sales rising by an annual average of 4.7 per cent over the same period, the report added.

Speaking to Gulf News, Mark Napier, exhibitions director, DWTC, and show director, Gulfood Manufacturing, said: “We are now attracting very senior investors and manufacturing leaders from across the Middle East and Africa and the Indian subcontinent… More than 30 exhibitors have told me that they have already signed deals in the first couple of hours of the exhibition itself.”

“Local and international manufacturers are now looking at Dubai as one of the most important growth markets… We are hoping to see some exceptional sales numbers by the end of the event,” he added.

Exhibitor Multivac Middle East FZE, a German packaging company with an office in Dubai, secured some “serious projects in the flight catering solutions,” according to its managing director Amir Sotoudeh. “We have delivered some solutions to a regional airline and we are talking with other airlines here...Things in general in the food industry in the region are moving. This shows the potential in the food business.”

Pascal Drouet, export sales manager, Goavec Engineering, said the company from France had developed contacts with some clients from Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during the last year’s exhibition. “Now, we have a lot of prospective clients from the region. When we conducted similar shows in Paris, we did not receive such response. We are really optimistic about the growth in the industry here,” Drouet said.