The taste of Ireland with rising food exports to the UAE


The UAE and Saudi Arabia are essential trading partners for Ireland

The relationship between Ireland and the UAE is strong, with many ties ranging from the over 10,000 Irish diaspora residents in the country to the strong business relationships in place. This extends to the taste of Ireland that is enjoyed by many residents and visitors to the UAE that is offered on menus across the country and on the supermarket shelves containing an array of premium quality products.

The array of Irish food and drink options is set to increase further with the additional focus of the Irish government agency, Bord Bia – the Irish Food Board on the region. The UAE is earmarked as a key priority market with the opportunity to expand its exporting relationship substantially over the coming years.

Supporting this prioritisation of the market, I am leading a trade mission to the UAE and Saudi Arabia this week organised by Bord Bia to unlock further opportunities and galvanise the existing close relationships at both the region’s government and business level.

With agri-food exports to the UAE alone reaching AED225m ($54m) last year, it represents a 154 percent increase in value on 2010 figures and a 289 percent increase in volume which is a fantastic result making it Ireland’s 21st largest destination worldwide.

During this visit to the region, we will be launching Bord Bia’s new three-year strategy, which outlines an ambitious target of AED1.6bn ($431m) in Irish food and drinks exports to the broader Gulf region by 2025, led by dairy and consumer foods.

Therefore, we see the UAE and Saudi Arabia as essential partners from a trading perspective. I believe that Ireland can help meet the food supply diversification requirements of the region.

As a country that exports globally 90 percent of the food we produce, Ireland is an excellent fit for a region that is dependent on imports to meet its food needs. Our strong focus on quality, traceability and sustainability makes Ireland a natural partner for the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic period, we have observed changes in consumers’ shopping behaviour, and menu choices in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which were identified through Bord Bia commissioned in-country surveys conducted with shoppers.

bord bia, Ireland
Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board

In both countries, we have seen priorities shift towards placing a greater value on the nutritional content of the food that they consume, with half of the adults surveyed in the UAE reporting that they see nutritional content and the naturalness of their food and drink as being more important now as a result of the pandemic.

In Saudi Arabia, almost 9 in 10 Saudi shoppers (85 percent) say that a health focus is important in the food they buy since the pandemic.

Ireland is ready to meet this rising demand in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for premium quality and natural food products for consumers and diners in the region.   The agri-food sector remains Ireland’s most important indigenous industry, and the further sustainable development of the sector is a national priority of the Government of Ireland.

I believe the UAE and the wider Gulf states offers enormous potential for the Irish food and drink industry and can contribute to achieving the ambitious targets in Ireland’s FoodVision 2030, our latest strategy for the agri-food sector.

Food Vision 2030 aims for Ireland to be a world leader in Sustainable Food Systems. That means a sustainable food system that is profitable throughout (economic sustainability); has a positive or neutral impact on the natural environment (environmental sustainability); and has broad-based benefits for society (social sustainability).

This visit is part of an intensified programme of trade missions by the Government this year. Continuing market diversification and intensification of efforts in markets where we already have a foothold are key elements to our long-term plan in response to Brexit. Despite an extremely challenging year in 2020, worldwide exports of Irish food and drink totalled EUR14.3bn.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Charlie McConalogue, Ireland,
Charlie McConalogue TD, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (left), with Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and the Environment

As I mentioned earlier, this Trade Mission was planned specifically to coincide with Expo 2020 and Gulfood, which provides Irish companies exciting opportunities to showcase the best of their safe, high quality and sustainably produced food and drink, across a range of sectors including dairy, meat, eggs, consumer foods, biscuits and more. I am particularly pleased to see Irish companies participating in these events and  showcasing the best of what Ireland has to offer in this sector.

In addition to the participating food companies, I will be accompanied by senior delegates from Bord Bia – the Irish Food Board, and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland, For the opening of Expo 2020’s thematic week on Agriculture, Food & Livelihoods, Bord Bia will host a seminar in the Irish Pavilion outlining Ireland’s capabilities in food sustainability, traceability and safety.

This event, which is open to the public, will feature two panel discussions focused on food sustainability and food safety. The event focuses on Ireland’s commitment to be a global leader in sustainable food systems, followed by two panel discussions.  

The mission will include separate engagements, including meetings with the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment​, HE Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Al-Muhairi, regulatory bodies, and potential customers for Irish produce. Naturally, there will also be an important equine focus while in Dubai, a shared passion of our nations.

I believe that combining efforts at political, diplomatic, technical, and commercial levels through trade missions such as this one is a valuable means of raising the profile of Ireland as a food producing nation and unlocking commercial opportunities for Irish food companies.

Ultimately, this means consumers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia can expect to see more Irish choices of products appearing on their menus and in the shopping aisles and, of course, the mouth-watering taste of Ireland renowned around the world.

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