Surging demand from the Middle East’s rapidly growing and high-income population has raised annual food imports to over $25 billion, said the organisers of an upcoming food event in Abu Dhabi.
SIAL Middle East, taking place from November 22 to 24 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, is the latest addition to the largest network of professional food events held worldwide by the SIAL Group.
A high-level Ministerial Conference will discuss the development of an integrated food policy specifically for GCC countries during the event.
“GCC countries import around 90 per cent of their food products so they are constantly searching for better and more convenient sources,” said Fadi Saad, director of SIAL Middle East at Turret.
“A positive movement we are witnessing is the region’s growing interest in creating a unified food policy. Such a policy would highly benefit Gulf residents as it would set standards for ensuring the sustainability, safety and quality of outsourced foods,” he added.
Agriculture, finance, environment and trade ministers will discuss common GCC standards for food risk assessment and safety, nutrition, emergency response, and effective communication procedures for imminent risk.
Of particular interest will be food developments in the Saudi Arabia, the GCC’s largest food importer with spending of more than $17 billion. The food industry accounts for around 13 per cent of total imports and represents the country’s fourth largest import sector.
The reasons behind the surge in domestic Saudi food demand include high population growth, steady rise in tourism, the suspension of local wheat production, and the need for more foreign workers to support a growing number of projects.
More than 300 exhibitors from 30 countries will be displaying their products and showcasing new innovations during the event.
Over 80 per cent of the exhibitors belong to the international food industry; many heading for the first time to the region. The show will also feature national pavilions from Argentina, China, France, Hong Kong, Iran, Thailand, Turkey, and the US.