Azerbaijani Trade Show Opens Window on Little-Known Region
Now in its 19th year, World Food Azerbaijan has established itself as the Caspian region’s leading trade show and grew significantly in 2013. A record 179 food and beverage companies from 31 countries exhibited this year. First-time exhibitors – including those in the USA Pavilion – made up about 60 percent of the event’s exhibition space. USMEF’s participation was supported through funding provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
More than 5,000 food industry professionals attended World Food Azerbaijan over three days, and many visitors to the USMEF booth complimented the high quality of the product samples on offer. The highlight, however, was a personal visit by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who follows agricultural trade and development issues very closely. Aliyev’s appearance at the USMEF booth was featured in his website’s coverage of the event.
Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region, with a population of 9.2 million. About 2.5 million of its residents live in Baku. Because 95 percent of Azerbaijanis are Muslim, the country imports very little pork. But beef imports have expanded over the past decade, and were strong in the early months of this year. Through April, imports were up 70 percent in volume (3,238 metric tons) and 124 percent in value ($7.65 million) from a year ago. This is mostly buffalo meat from India, however, along with some beef imported from nearby Ukraine. Many food industry professionals are still largely unfamiliar with high-quality beef, which makes World Food Azerbaijan an important venue for prospective customers.