Visitors flock to the Philippines pavillion at 2011's show Visitors flock to the Philippines pavillion at 2011's show

Now in its 17th year, Gulfood 2012 opens its doors today at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) with a whopping 3800 exhibitors from 88 countries who will vie for trade from the expected 65,000 visitors.

The show takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from February 19-22 and is open from 11am-7pm February 19-21, and 11am-5pm on February 22, 2012.

At a press conference last week, international trade commissions highlighted the importance of the Middle East markets for the global F&B industry, which are at 110 international pavilions.

Story continues below

With population in the GCC region expected to cross the 50 million mark by 2020, up from the current level of 40.6 million, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), meeting the increasing demand for food represents an opportunity for leading international players in the sector.

Trade commissioners and ambassadors representing Chile, Germany, France, India and Italy, joined Helal Saeed Almarri, CEO, DWTC, to highlight opportunities and challenges for food trade in the MEASA region and the importance of the world’s largest annual food and hospitality trade event for their respective markets.

“The growth and outlook of the food sector is a very important issue for the Middle East market as global trends present new opportunities for the food and beverage industry,” said Mr Almarri. “With food consumption in the region growing exponentially, there is a pressing need to establish valuable trade relations with the food producing nations. Similarly, the region represents huge potential for companies with home markets that are currently delivering minimal growth.

“It is therefore, no surprise that Gulfood plays such a pivotal role in facilitating the exceptional transaction levels for suppliers and manufacturers from every corner of the globe, knowledge sharing with the world’s experts on the latest food trends, along with access to key decision makers throughout the region and entry into these lucrative markets.”

With French agrifood exports to the United Arab Emirates in 2011 valued at AED 1 billion), an increase of 31% on the previous year, French food and beverage companies are preparing for a record event.

François Sporrer, trade counsellor – director, France said: “Gulfood is essential for French companies to develop their business in the region. This year more than 53 companies will attend the French pavilion dedicated to food, beverages and ingredients while an additional 44 companies will participate on the French Pavilion dedicated to equipment and food processing. Since the launch of Gulfood, France has not missed a single edition of the show and over the years the French presence has continued to grow.”

Also a major food producing nation with robust business growth generated from exports to the Middle East, Italy witnessed an increase of 28.4% in sales during 2011 that generated revenues of over €90 million (AED 438 million). Commenting on his country’s participation at Gulfood 2012, HE Giorgio Starace, Italian Ambassador to the UAE, said: “Gulfood provides the optimal platform to enter a highly lucrative market, and its host city Dubai presents a perfect hub for the re-export of Italian products not only to the GCC countries, but also beyond to former USSR Republics, the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Africa. We are looking forward to brisk business at this year’s event and our commitment to the show is stronger than ever.”

Gulfood is strictly a trade-only event and is open to business and trade visitors from within the industry only. Industry business professionals on the day of the show will be able to buy a Four Day pass for AED 200.

Hotelier Middle East will be reporting LIVE from the show. Keep logging on for the latest coverage from the event...