The Middle East presents a wealth of opportunities for the UK’s red meat exports with the region importing around 90 per cent of all beef and lamb consumed locally.
According to the presenters on AHDB’s latest export webinar, the Middle East has a growing population with a high disposable income – making it a key target market for exporters.
While shipments of lamb to the Middle East increased 319 per cent between 2018 and 2019, AHDB’s Halal Sector Manager Dr Awal Fuseini was keen to stress that the UK is at present, only exporting a small amount in comparison to other countries.
This means there is real potential to increase the UK’s market share. And while he highlighted the many opportunities that exist in the Middle East, Dr Fuseini also spoke about the challenges faced by exporters around certification.
He said: “We recognise the significance of the Middle East and while volumes of lamb are increasing, there is room for us to take a larger share of the 90 per cent import requirements for the region. We have seen there is an appetite for UK lamb in the Middle East and we must do more to maximise on the potential opportunities it presents.
“One of the biggest issues faced by our exporters presently is halal certification. Not all UK based certification bodies are recognised and accredited so it is therefore, vitally important that you choose your certifier wisely as without accreditation, your products will be rejected on arrival.”
Dr Fuseini also stressed the important role of meat in the Middle Eastern diet with high levels consumed at social events and festivals. And with the population expected to grow from 250 million in 2017 to 265 million within the next few months, he said it is crucial the UK takes advantage of the high demand.
The webinar also featured a presentation from Adil Khan, from the Department for International Trade in Dubai, who gave an overview of DIT’s work in the Middle East.
He highlighted the significance of the region, stating that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the UK’s second largest export market outside Europe – importing more UK products than China and three-times the volumes exported to India.
Mr Khan also revealed that within the GCC, the United Arab Emirates makes up 40 per cent of UK trade, with sheep meat being the most popular red meat, accounting for more than 60 per cent of total red meat consumption.
The webinar also highlighted the ongoing work of AHDB to promote the UK’s red meat offering in the Middle East, with plans to attend the popular food and drink trade exhibition Gulfood in February next year.
AHDB has also recently appointed an agent, the British Centres for Business, which is based in the region, to lead on promotional activities for UK products and help raise the profile of UK brands to key influencers and buyers.
Dr Fuseini added: “While we cannot predict what will happen over the next six months with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, we are hopeful that international travel will resume and we can continue our missions and attend trade shows in 2021 to highlight the quality and high standards of our red meat in this all-important market.”