Interest in U.S. beef continues to grow across the Middle East and there is great potential in several markets, USMEF confirmed during its participation in the 2018 edition of Gulfood, the region’s largest food trade show. USMEF’s efforts at Gulfood, which attracted more than 5,000 exhibitors and 100,000 visitors to Dubai, were funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Companies from around the world showcased food products and foodservice equipment in more than 120 national pavilions, including the “Taste of the USA” pavilion, where USMEF distributed information, answered questions and met with buyers and traders interested in U.S. beef.
“Gulfood is one of the largest food trade shows in the world, and its location in Dubai makes it key for importers and exporters wanting to engage and discuss trade,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom, who was on hand to help USMEF members promote U.S. beef. “There was a good cross section of Middle East customers at this year’s show – from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt – but it’s also a global food show, with a lot of buyers from Central Asia and Southeast Asia.”
With investment in food production on the rise across the Middle East, exporters see it as a lucrative market. Importers in the region, meanwhile, are on the lookout for suppliers. Halstrom noted that buyers from Saudi Arabia, which reopened to U.S. beef in 2016, continue to demonstrate a preference for the American product.
“We’ve recently started to see some larger volumes of U.S. beef go into Saudi Arabia, especially toward the end of 2017,” Halstrom said. “Quite a few of the Saudi Arabian customers were at Gulfood and seemed excited about U.S. beef, so that was encouraging to see.”
Halstrom said other countries showing great promise for U.S. beef include the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. Qatar was brought up often during Gulfood because it will host the 2022 World Cup.
“We learned that a lot of the key trade is already ramping up, or planning on ramping up, for that event,” explained Halstrom. “The number of hotel rooms in Qatar is expected to double just because of the World Cup, so there is definitely a foodservice opportunity there for U.S. beef. USMEF and our beef industry members and partners are certainly looking at this as a chance to reach more consumers and share information about U.S. beef with those who may not be familiar with the product’s quality and taste.”
During this year’s Gulfood, USMEF was also able to interact with Ted McKinney, USDA under secretary of agriculture for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. McKinney was a guest chef at Gulfood’s culinary salon, where U.S. beef and other U.S. agriculture products were prepared and shared with attendees.