By Sue Heinen, FAS Administrator
Recently, I traveled to the Middle East to meet with local and U.S. Embassy leaders to discuss agricultural strategy within the region. Towards the end of my two-week journey, I also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. agricultural companies, state regional trade groups and cooperators at the USDA-endorsed Gulfood trade show in Dubai.
The show is the Middle East’s largest food, drink, food service and hospitality equipment exhibition, drawing buyers from throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) helps U.S. companies market their food and agricultural products at international trade shows through market development programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP).
In Dubai, I participated in the opening ceremony of the USA pavilion with U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Michael Corbin, Consul General Rob Waller and other embassy leaders. This year’s trade show featured the largest U.S. presence to date, with 181 booths representing 137 U.S. companies. The show has become so popular, our FAS office in Dubai reported the USA pavilion sold out in one day. As I toured the show, I was also elated to learn many of the U.S. companies were new to exporting and 43 were venturing into the Middle Eastern market for the first time.
Products showcased in the USA pavilion included dried fruits, breakfast products, beef and beef products, beverages, frozen fruits and vegetables, snack foods, cheese and other dairy products.
So far our exhibitors reported on-site sales of approximately $102 million, a 70 percent increase from last year’s on-site sales of $60 million. In the next six to 12 months, the exhibitors expect an additional $313.9 million in sales.
Participating in the Gulfood trade show keeps the door open for U.S. agricultural companies to develop new relationships with buyers in the Middle East or strengthen existing ties. U.S. exports to the region have been strong in recent years. In 2012, the United States exported more than $6 billion of agricultural, fish and forest products to the Middle East.
Between 2009 and 2012, more than 1,000 U.S. companies and organizations – about 70 percent of them small and medium-sized businesses – participated in 110 USDA-endorsed trade shows in 24 countries. On-site sales totaled more than $485 million and 12-month projected sales reported by exhibitors were estimated at more than $4.2 billion. The companies made over 57,500 business contacts and displayed nearly 29,100 new products in various markets on all continents.