USMEF’s participation in Gulfood 2016 wrapped up Thursday following a week of face-to-face meetings with potential customers from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. The region’s largest food show, which attracted about 90,000 people from 170 countries this year, was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Funding support was provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for global marketing, said the atmosphere at Gulfood was upbeat despite economic challenges in the region created by declining oil prices. He described the show as very productive from the U.S. meat industry’s standpoint.
“The interest level from many countries was exciting,” said Halstrom. “Whether we are talking about the UAE, Jordan, Ghana, or South Africa, it was obvious that with the emerging nature of some of these market economies there is excellent potential for imported beef products.”
South Africa in particular was a hot topic of discussion at Gulfood, Halstrom noted. The market recently reopened to U.S. beef for the first time since 2003, and USMEF is planning in-market visits and a buyers’ event in that part of the world later this year. On Friday it was announced that South Africa has also reopened to U.S. pork.
USMEF members participating in Gulfood 2016 also found reason to be optimistic about emerging markets and potential new business.
“I found the show to be very beneficial in that I met a lot of new business prospects from different parts of the world,” said Mark Boyd of Protimex, a meat processing and exporting company based in California. “While the Middle East region is the main attraction at Gulfood, the world is definitely showcased at this event with a wide range of buyers from Southeast Asia, North Asia, Africa and Europe.”
“Again this year, Gulfood showed itself to be a great commercial hub – a meeting point for a very wide region,” said John Brook, USMEF regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East. “The Middle East remains a region which is very much dependent on imports for all foodstuffs, and so obviously this deep decline in the price of oil is going to have some impact on the economies of the region. But it doesn’t change the fact that they still have to import all of their food requirements.”
While U.S. beef is the most popular item displayed by U.S. exporters at Gulfood, U.S. lamb also drew attention from importers.
“USMEF conducted U.S. lamb workshops in the UAE in 2015, which were a great success,” Brook said. “The workshops drew in a large number of chefs and restaurant owners, and we feel there is strong potential for U.S. lamb to the Gulf region.”