Competence Center for Food and Agriculture
The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) appointed the German-Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK) to set up a "Competence Center for Food and Agriculture" for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq. The competence center pursues the goal of promoting economic cooperation in the field of food and agricultural commodities between Germany and the five named countries of the Gulf region. The services of the competence center are financially supported by the BMEL and can be offered to German companies at a reduced price through de-minimis financial support.
The competence center was created to serve as an information, network and advisory platform, as well as a focal point of contact for the economy in the agricultural engineering, beverages, confectionery and sugar confectionery, fruit & vegetables, grain / oilseeds / milled products, meat / cattle / fish, other food, delicatessen industries / Organic / convenience food, milk / cheese / eggs, as well as baked goods and pasta.
The main tasks of the competence center include:
- Creation of market transparency (collection, evaluation, communication) for German companies
- Support through services in the areas of market information and market entry for German companies
- Promotion of German agricultural technology and food on the markets (events, activities, projects)
- Communication and cooperation platform with local partners (network, exchange) and expansion of database
The UAE market
The UAE in general
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the three leading Arab economic centers in the world and it is also one of Germany's most important trading partners in the MENA region. Its political stability, diversified economy and excellent infrastructure provide foreign investors with an ideal location in the Middle East. Thanks to its favorable geostrategic location, the UAE serves as a trans-shipment hub between Europe, Asia and Africa.
Food security plays an important role in the UAE. Thus, within the framework of the Emirati National Food Security Strategy 2051, there are great opportunities for bilateral cooperation. For companies interested in the Gulf region, the UAE offers very attractive conditions for the establishment of a regional distribution center. In general, there is a lot of potential in the market for entrepreneurs from the food and agriculture sector - due to the increasing demand for food. The prerequisites for a successful market entry are the establishment of personal contacts on site and a reliable local sales representative.
Agricultural structure and consumption in the UAE
With an area of around 82,880 km², the UAE is about the size of Austria. More than two-thirds of the country's area is taken up by the foothills of the Great Arabian Desert (Ar Rub al Khali). The desert areas are almost devoid of vegetation, while date palms and eucalyptus species can be found in the oases.
The climate in the UAE is characterized by dryness and high temperatures. In the summer month of July, an average of 30 °C is measured in the capital Abu Dhabi and air temperatures up to 43 °C can be reached. In January, the average values are around 18 °C.
The self-sufficiency rate in the UAE is estimated at 10 to 20 percent and the country is heavily dependent on imports.
Alpen Capital, a consulting firm, forecasts the food sector in the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) to grow at an average rate of 3.5 percent in the UAE from 2018 to 2023 (in terms of volume). Accordingly, consumption is expected to increase from 8.7 million tons (2018) to 10.3 million tons in 2023.
The market reached US$473 million in 2018, representing an average growth rate of circa 10 percent from 2013 to 2018. Nuts and seeds account 34 percent of this (US$162 million). Dairy products account 27 percent (US$128 million), followed by products with a high fiber content (US$48 million).
Food distribution and sales
There are basically three ways to enter the UAE market: direct export, export through one or more representatives in the Emirates, or by setting up a local branch office.
Direct exports probably require the least effort, but it must be assumed that growth opportunities are limited. In general, personal contact is valued in the UAE market, and customers expect a certain local presence and accessibility.
Many companies therefore engage local distributors, to represent their products in the market.
If intensive market development is the goal, most companies establish a branch office in the UAE. This can take a variety of forms: usually the establishment of one or more branches or the establishment of a limited liability company.
The UAE has also established various free trade zones, each with its own corporate laws.
Dubai's airports and seaports as well as KIZAD (Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi) and Sharjah are mainly used for food imports. Dubai World Central (DWC) Airport is a major air cargo hub and is linked to the Deep Sea Port of Jebel Ali - the largest container port between Singapore and Rotterdam.
Competent authorities and laws of the UAE
UAE Competent Authorities
- Ministry of Health and Prevention
- Ministry of Climate Change & Environment
- Federal Land and Marine Transport Authority
- Federal Customs Authority
Relevant UAE laws
- Ministerial Decree No. 239 of 2018 on National Food Accreditation and Registration System (in Arabic)
- Ministerial Decree No. 433 of 2017 on National Rapid Alert System for Food (in Arabic)
- Ministerial Decree No. 14 of 2016 on controlling of imported food for non-trading purpose (in Arabic)
- Ministerial Decree No. 12 of 2016 on amending the Ministerial Decree No. 41 of 2012 on completion the Camel milk exporting facilities the EU requirements (in Arabic)
- Federal Law No. 10 of 2015 On Food Safety
Import process and documentation
- for the import of goods, registration with the respective Department of Economic Development is required.
- subsequently, a trade license is issued, which authorizes the import of goods. Furthermore, an entry in the commercial register and the registration of the company name are necessary.
- furthermore, registrations are to be made with the following agencies: Chamber of Commerce of the respective Emirate, Ports and Customs Authority and Dubai Trade (for the Emirate of Dubai).
- certain permits must be obtained and registrations must be made before importing food into the UAE
- It should be noted that laboratory analyses must be carried out when new food products are imported. For further deliveries/shipments, sporadic spot checks must be expected in the beginning.
The following accompanying documents are generally required for the importation of food products:
- original health certificate issued by a governmental health authority in the country of origin of the goods.
- packing list (shipping list)
- veterinary and halal certificates for meat, poultry and commodities
- in case of epidemics, additional certificates may be required, e.g. a dioxin certificate.
In principle, all imported goods must be marked with an indelible indication of origin ("Made in..."). The goods marking shall be clearly legible and permanently attached to the goods.
All food products must be labeled in Arabic. Bilingual labeling in English and Arabic is also possible, or even recommended, as many parts of the UAE population do not speak Arabic. The label must include the following informations:
- product name and brand
- ingredients (in decreasing order by weight)
- net weight in metric units
- country of origin
- name and address of the manufacturer or importer
- date of manufacture and expiration date (the expiration date does not have to be indicated for some products such as tea, white sugar and rice)
- barcode of the product
- list of ingredients that may cause hypersensitivity
- nutritional information (basis: GSO standard 2233/2012)
The recent economic crisis and drop in oil prices have underscored the need for the Iraqi government to pay more attention to the agricultural sector in order to regain self-sufficiency after decades of trade. In addition, the agricultural sector contributes to job creation in the country. Acting Prime Minister Al-Kadhemi's reform paper defines the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector as one of the main priorities. The pandemic has further highlighted the importance of self-sufficiency, and there is hope that the incoming government in Iraq will go a step further to achieve this.
The Food consumption in Qatar is expected to grow at an annual rate of 2.3%, (from 1.7 MT in 2018 to 1.9 MT in 2023). This increase is driven by three main factors: Population growth with an increasing number of expatriates, high income (highest in the GCC region), and a growing influx of tourists. Additionally, demand in the food and beverage sector is expected to increase to approximately USD 2.93 billion by 2022 due to population growth (1.7%). The upcoming 2022 World Cup is expected to attract 3.1 million tourists for the 28-day sporting event, bringing a one-time boost of $1.7 billion to Qatar's food and beverage sector.
The average monthly household income in Qatar is USD 5,584.06, around 20% of which is spent on food per household. There are therefore great market opportunities here for German food producers. Some German products, especially from the organic sector, are already sold in Qatar. The trend, especially among the younger generation, is towards so-called "health products". The demand for local products from organic farming is also growing steadily.
Furthermore, since Qatar's political and economic isolation by its neighboring countries in June 2017, the issues of food security and thus the expansion of agar and agriculture in the country have played a special role. Over the past three years, the Qatari government has invested significantly in the sector to strengthen self-sufficiency and make the country less dependent on food imports. The flagship project is the QR 1.6 billion expansion of the national port Hamad Port. Here, specialized facilities for the storage, processing and refining of rice, sugar and edible oils, among others, are to be built on an area of approximately 530,000 square meters. Under the national strategy for food security 2019-2023, the number of farms is to be increased from the current level of about 1400 to 3000 by the end of 2024, thus covering about 60% of local food needs through local production. Many of the farms run computerized as aquaponic greenhouses and do not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, for example, Al Sawfa Farm, Mustafawi Organic Vegetables, Agrico Agriculture Development...
The country's supply of (fresh) dairy products is now almost exclusively ensured by the local company Baladna (https://baladna.com/). The expansion of the sector by creating more capacity and production increases the need for intelligent agricultural technology, for example to increase efficiency, but also in issues of wastewater disposal and recycling. This offers opportunities for cooperation with German companies.
In the future, new projects in this sector will increasingly be offered to the private sector as PPP projects. One of these is an indoor shrimp farm in northern Qatar.
F&B is an important component of social and community activities in Kuwait. Over the years, the country has developed its own F&B scene. The nation has become a breeding ground for homegrown brands. The regional culinary market is mainly driven by international chains, including delivery platform Talabat (Delivery Hero). The hotel industry in the country is being conquered by Germans in the management and kitchen sectors. In recent years, there has been a trend toward healthier restaurant and supermarket concepts, where German food is seeing strong demand. Recently, the first German organic market "Danke" opened its doors in Kuwait with the aim of improving the eating habits of the overweight population in the country.
Kuwait places a high priority on food security. However, the agricultural sector faces numerous challenges due to severe shortages of fresh water, land, and harsh weather conditions, which significantly limit food security. With domestic food production unable to meet local demand, Kuwait is heavily dependent on imports. Kuwait ranks first among Arab countries in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI 2020) developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Domestic production suffered during COVID as entry restrictions led to a shortage of labor on farms. The country is recovering with a renewed focus on agricultural technology. One such example is the German company &ever, which has worked with a local partner to open a vertical farm that supplies fresh produce to the local market.
Population and real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, are key drivers of food consumption in the country. Tourism will play a key role in future food demand. The number of tourists to Oman is expected to increase by 5.5 percent to 3.3 million between 2018 and 2023.
The predominantly urban and young population grew by 3.0% annually between 2014 and 2019. In particular, demand for organic food among the health-conscious Millennials population has increased. As a result, food production and consumption more than doubled in 5 years. The most produced food categories are vegetables with a 32.4% share of fish (28.1% share), fruit (22.7% share) and meat (8.5% share). With a faster increase in demand compared to production, the country's dependence on imports has increased significantly. Total imports for the Sultanate increased by 4.2% between 2014 and 2019, reaching 3.2 million tons, with grain imports being the largest. Oman's total food exports increased at an annual growth rate of 8.1% over the five years.
The country has the highest level of self-sufficiency in food production among all GCC countries. The Sultanate was able to meet over 50% of its fruit, egg, and meat needs and over 80% of its vegetable needs through domestic production in 2019/20. Fish self-sufficiency remains the highest at 141.3% (2019).
In 2012, the government established the Oman Food Investment Holding Company (OFIC), which is tasked with promoting the Sultanate's so-called National Food Security Strategy through partnerships with government agencies, private operators and investors.
OFIC comprises several companies operating in the food sector, including Al Bashayer Meat Company, Mazoon Dairy, Oman Flour Mills, Al Namaa Poultry and Oman Fisheries.
Trends such as rising demand for organic food, innovations in food production, packaging technologies and storage, and growing demand for convenience foods represent market opportunities for German suppliers.
Trade Fairs and Exhibitions
AgroFarm Middle East, Dubai, UAE, 9.-10. October 2023,
Trade fair for animal husbandry
The Speciality Food Festival, Dubai, UAE, 7.-9. November 2023,
Exhibition for exquisite foods and gourmet ingredients
Gulfood Manufacturing, UAE, Dubai, 7.- 9. November 2023
Products, services, and solutions for advancing the food manufacturing industry
VIV MEA 2023, UAE, Abu Dhabi, 20.-22. November 2023,
Leading animal husbandry show in the Middle East
ADIFE, UAE, Abu Dhabi, 27.-29. November 2023
Middle East Natural & Organic Products Expo, Dubai, UAE, 12.-14. December 2023,
The only trade fair in the Middle East focused on organic and natural products
Expo 2023 Doha Qatar 2023, Doha, Katar, 2 Oktober 2023 – 28 März 2024,
Techniques for sustainable cultivation of trees and crops in arid regions
Expo Culinaire, VAE, Sharjah, 20.-22. Mai 2024,
Dedicated event for chefs, pastry chefs, bakers, cooks, students, and professionals from the HoReCa sector
Wabel Drinks Summit, VAE, Dubai, 29.-30. November 2024