The foodservice sector’s appetite for high-end beef cuts, an emerging fast-casual restaurant scene and Middle Eastern retailers’ growing need for beef variety meat were encouraging signs during the 25th edition of Gulfood, a global food trade show held annually in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). USMEF’s participation in the show, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), included a USMEF pavilion and display booth where U.S. beef was promoted and meetings between USMEF members and importers were held.
Customers from across the region – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, to name a few – were eager for updates on the U.S. beef industry and the availability of U.S. beef in the market. In addition, European customers and potential customers from emerging markets in Africa were on hand and showed strong interest in U.S. beef. In all, more than 100,000 people from 200 countries visited this year’s Gulfood, where 5,000 exhibitors showcased food and beverage products and services.
USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom greeted customers at the USMEF booth and USMEF staff helped match member companies with potential business partners. USMEF also met with USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney to talk about trade access issues in the region.
Halstrom said there are abundant opportunities for U.S. beef as consumers in the region search out new dining options.
“In the Middle East, it’s primarily a combination of high-end cuts for foodservice,” Halstrom said. “There is also a fast-casual dining segment that has been emerging for some time now, creating a demand for ground beef made from sub-primals like briskets and chucks. The primary market would be the UAE, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Other markets within that immediate region that are big for U.S. exporters are Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.”
Saudi Arabia, a market in the region that holds great potential for U.S. beef – but one with significant market access restrictions – was also a topic of discussion.
“We’ve seen an increasing demand in the foodservice sector, so there’s a lot of interest from our exporters to increase business in Saudi Arabia,” said Halstrom.
Matt Copeland, USMEF representative in Africa, and Monty Brown, USMEF representative in Europe who also covers North Africa, were at Gulfood and had several meetings with importers from a handful of African countries. In addition to Egypt, promising markets in North Africa include Morocco, where Brown will be meeting with prospective buyers in March, and Tunisia. Both countries recently opened to U.S. beef and the U.S. enjoys a tariff advantage in Morocco through a free trade agreement.
Importers from South Africa were also at Gulfood, representing yet another promising market.
“From our perspective, South Africa continues to have potential to be a substantial destination for U.S. beef, and we are also seeing good things in West Africa,” said Halstrom. “U.S. beef variety meats have been going into some African countries, but we are excited about the prospect of increasing exports of U.S. beef primal cuts throughout Africa, as well.”