Gulf News | 17 February 2009
By Suzanne Fenton, Staff Reporter
Dubai: With land prices falling, now is a good time for the UAE to acquire farmland in other countries, in order to strengthen food security, a senior official says.
UAE authorities have been looking at securing agricultural land in countries like Pakistan and Sudan so it can be more independent in providing its own food.
"Definitely, this is a good time to acquire land," Helal Saeed Al Merri, director general of Dubai World Trade Centre, told Gulf News.
The Middle East food service market is now valued at around $31 billion. The GCC food market is worth more than $12 billion a year.
Last year, the GCC food market was worth $9.5 billion. The UAE alone accounted for $3 billion to $4 billion of this figure.
US food exports to the six GCC countries amount to nearly Dh2 billion in 2008, according to Mohammed Al Taha of the US Agricultural Office. Al Merri was speaking to local media a few days before the 14th Gulfood exhibition takes place. The food industry seems not to have been as affected by the global downturn as other industries. In Dubai and the wider UAE, the tourism and hospitality industry plays an important role, which is good news for the food industry.
While there has been a downturn with luxury goods, the food industry as a whole remains robust. "Food is one of those industries that are inelastic. People have to eat so it's a very important market. The cost of eating out here is still much less than in other major markets," Al Merri said. [snip]