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Investors eye Gulf aquaculture boom

Saudi Arabia and Oman are leading a fresh wave of investment in the Gulf’s aquaculture industry, as increasing regional fish consumption gives investors a big opportunity to capitalise on the fastest growing food processing sector in the Middle East, said experts.

In December 2013, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture said it would inject an additional $10.6 billion into aquaculture projects to produce one million tons of fish in the next 16 years, while Oman, which has long been at the forefront of aquaculture in the Gulf region, announced that it plans to invest $1.3 billion in fisheries development up to 2020, they stated.

The UAE, which has the world’s largest sturgeon fish farm in Abu Dhabi, also has big plans, with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Water expected to announce several multi-billion dollar aquaculture projects in the coming months, said the experts ahead of a key industry event.

Agra Middle East, the region’s only exhibition covering agribusiness, poultry & livestock, fishing & aquaculture, floriculture & horticulture and agricultural machinery & supplies, will be held from March 25 to 27 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

According to experts, the aquaculture is now a booming sector across the Middle East, and one which is becoming increasingly popular at Agra Middle East.

The expo provides a comprehensive all-in-one platform for exhibitors to showcase their latest innovations to thousands of key regional decision makers.

Though traditionally dominated by suppliers of agriculture, horticulture, and poultry products and services, the three-day event has seen aquaculture related exhibition space more than double in the last year, and its organisers, Informa Exhibitions, expects this trend to keep growing.

“Aquaculture is the fastest growing food processing industry in the Middle East, with the most recent fisheries’ data indicating that farmed fish output across the region has grown five-fold in a ten year period, from 194,000 tonnes in 2002 to 1.1 million tonnes in 2011,” remarked Richard Pavitt, the exhibition director of Agra Middle East.

“Given the decline in wild catches, this trend is likely to continue, and with 10kg per capita of fish consumption among all Arab countries, experts predict that supply must increase 20 per cent to maintain the region’s current levels of consumption.

“Up to 30 per cent of seafood provisions in the Middle East already come from aquaculture sources, and investors are now turning their attention toward the likes of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and oil-rich markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” he added.

That will come as good news to the dozens of international aquaculture players exhibiting at the expo, including the Malta-based AquaBioTech Group, will be showcasing its latest innovations in on-shore and off-shore aquaculture technologies.

“Participating at Aggra Middle East gives us a great opportunity to meet existing and future partners,” remarked Shane Hunter, the technical director at AquaBioTech Group. “The event has grown a lot in the last few years and attracts industry stakeholders in the Middle East and beyond,” he added.

“Last year we had visitors from Kazakhstan, Russia, Romania, Nigeria, Canada, and all the Middle East countries, and we hope to see more companies investing state-of-the-art Recirculating Aquaculture System technologies.”

Agra Middle East is co-located with VET Middle East, the leading event for the burgeoning veterinary industry in the region, presenting an opportunity for international suppliers and local distributors to showcase latest technologies, equipments and medicines in the veterinary sector.


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