The evolution of Gulfood as a global trade show continued this year, signified by the number of new customers – and competitors – attending the event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. USMEF’s participation, which included a display booth promoting U.S. red meat with six member organizations, was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
More than 100,000 people from 198 countries visited the 24th edition of the show, where 5,000 exhibitors from 120 countries showcased food and beverage products and services.
“Aside from the sheer size of the show, evidence of its growth could be seen in the large number of customers from the Middle East, southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa that came to the USMEF booth to discuss U.S. red meat and learn about is the products available in their markets,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “Each year we are seeing tremendous growth at Gulfood – we see our regular, existing customers, as well as new contacts from regions that have a lot of potential for the U.S. red meat industry.”
The theme of this year’s show – “The World of Good. The World of Food.” – encouraged participants to reconnect and explore potential new partnerships. Gulfood organizers pointed out that three first-time country pavilions were unveiled for the show: the European Union, Bulgaria and New Zealand. New individual country participants included Guatemala, Iraq, Luxembourg, the Maldives, Nepal, Norway, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania.
“Our members who participated in the show were very pleased with the opportunities they saw, both with established customers of U.S. red meat and with some of the potential customers who were in attendance,” said Halstrom. “The member companies were also pleased with USMEF’s support and knowledge of the many international markets that were represented in Dubai.”
Eric Smith, president of Utica, New York-based Smith Packing Company, expressed appreciation for the assistance his company received from USMEF.
“Gulfood attracts people from all the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and allows us to focus on the interest in U.S. beef that comes out of this region, which has been strong over the years,” Smith said. “When you’re in the wholesale food distribution business, you can find business on many different layers of foodservice. We’re looking for distributors that will show interest in U.S. beef, and so we regard USMEF as a key ally that helps us gain information and provides resources such as promotional support. As we work more and more closely with USMEF, our experience is that they have given us the best resources we could have to make the most of our time at Gulfood.”
Mark Spengler of Greater Omaha Packing Company said he believes Gulfood is not only getting bigger, it’s also getting better.
“I have been attending for 15 years, and the show this year was one of the best,” Spengler said. “I have seen many new business opportunities for U.S. beef and appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Meat Export Federation to arrange the USMEF member area.”
Halstrom noted that, along with greeting customers at the USMEF booth and helping match member companies to potential business partners, USMEF also met with Ken Isley, administrator of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). Isley, who leads FAS staff in more than 90 offices around the world, was eager to discuss U.S. beef, pork and lamb trade, Halstrom said.
“We really appreciate him taking the time to meet with us and have an exchange about trade,” Halstrom said.
Halstrom pointed out that a contingent from Morocco stopped by the USMEF booth to express interest in U.S. beef, which gained access to the Moroccan market in 2018.
Halstrom also said there was much discussion at Gulfood on U.S. beef trade with Saudi Arabia. USMEF continues to pursue less restrictive market access terms that will allow U.S. beef to grow share in the Middle Eastern country.
Smith Packing Company was one of the first exporters to introduce U.S. beef into Saudi Arabia.
“It developed into a strong and important market for U.S. beef and was a springboard for expanding interest in U.S. beef across the Gulf Region,” Smith said. “Saudi Arabia has an educated consumer base that is very eager to see U.S. beef return to the market, but right now it’s very challenging to develop a supply of U.S. cattle that will meet Saudi Arabia’s import requirements.”