The Middle East Needs Australia’s Food – Four Things You Should Know

The Middle East Needs Australia’s Food – Four Things You Should Know

For Australian food exporters looking to expand internationally, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is a lucrative, high-income and high-value food export market that is growing exponentially in size, variety and revenue. Australia conducts around AUD$4 billion in food and agricultural trade with the GCC states each year, but there’s still plenty of scope for Australian food producers to reach new customers and broaden their brand’s international presence.

The GCC food sector hosts a wealth of diverse and vibrant export opportunities for Australian food, including prime beef and lamb cuts, high-protein grains, premium baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, boutique dairy and non-alcoholic beverages.

In this piece, I want to highlight four major trends of 2016 for Australian food in the GCC:

The GCC’s harsh climate, scarce agricultural land and dependence on desalination plants for water supply mean that the GCC states are unable to achieve food security through local production alone. As of 2016, the GCC currently imports 90% of its food requirements.

Opportunities for Australian food and agribusiness in the GCC are broad and very viable. Australian produce, unrivalled in freshness, quality, taste, and production techniques, is very well regarded in the region.

Alongside fast moving consumer goods, food will continue to represent the largest growing portion of GCC consumer expenditure for the foreseeable future. This trend is being driven by the emergence of Western-style retail shopping and the surging consumption habits of young, affluent and increasingly internationalised populations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

Consumer awareness and a willingness to pay a premium for the world’s best food is also very high amongst both local and foreign expatriate GCC populations alike.

The rise of processed foods

The popularity of processed foods in the GCC has been unrivalled by any other food category in recent years. An emerging preference for Western brands, the growth of modern retail (hypermarkets, supermarkets, department stores), and consistently strong demand from the tourism and hospitality sectors are shifting food consumption trends towards convenient packaged foods.

According to Frost & Sullivan, processed food accounts for more than 50% of the GCC food industry. The UAE’s imports of Australian processed and packaged foods was valued at AUD$101 million in 2013, having grown at a rapid average annual rate of 32% from 2009 levels.

High quality baked goods and snacks, ready made meals, confectionery, processed meat, milk powders and baby formula will continue to be strong growth categories for Australian exporters.

Booming food service channels

Booming food service channels in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are driving new opportunities for Australian food in their respective hospitality sectors, from aviation to upscale hotels and restaurants, major events and institutional catering. Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are also home to increasingly opulent hospitality sectors catering to tourists and corporate travellers.

Large expatriate workforces and surging levels of tourism in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have placed unprecedented pressures on local food supply, driving food imports. For optics, consider the following staggering figures:

With Qatar hosting 2022 FIFA World Cup and Dubai preparing for the World Expo in 2020, these cities provide enormous opportunities to supply the ever-growing tourism, hospitality and food service industries required to host these events. The UAE will also play host to the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.

Import demand from the institutional food-catering sector is also strong, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which had an estimated value of at least USD$5 billion in 2013. Despite having three times less overall Saudi Arabian lamb import market share than New Zealand, in Saudi food service channels, Australian lamb’s market share of 13.3% is outperforming New Zealand’s 8.7%.

Market opportunities for halal foods

Halal certification opens up new and significant opportunities for Australian exports across the world, in providing food for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. The segment represents a vibrant global export trend being tapped by mainstream food giants and niche manufacturers from across the globe. The halal food sector currently accounts for almost one-fifth of world food trade, and will reach USD$1.6 trillion by 2018.


Halal certification is a prerequisite for exporters of meat and other animal products who are considering selling their food products into the GCC and the wider MENA region. It is a necessary requirement and cost-effective step to access this rewarding and high-income export market.

Halal-certified red meat, dairy, honey, processed food and non-alcoholic beverages will provide strong opportunities for diversifying your company’s export revenue streams.

Time for action

In summary, Australia’s competitive advantages in food production, taste and quality assurance must be capitalised upon. The time is now right for Australian exporters to take action by investigating the major opportunities on offer in the GCC’s food industry.

For more information about the GCC’s food sector, pick up your copy of Dearin & Associates’ 2016 Revised Edition of the Opportunities for Australian Food & Agribusiness in the GCC report is available now. Click here to purchase your copy today.

To access your 75% discount on the report, use the promo code onsale2016, this week only.

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