Demand for packaged and processed foods have risen in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. This is due to high disposable income and busy urban lifestyles. The demand is expected to grow at a healthy pace.
Singapore companies can look for opportunities in the UAE’s food manufacturing and food services industries to meet the growing consumer demand. Local food service operators are also keen to invest in food manufacturing facilities to complement their businesses. This give you opportunities for co-investment.
You can also consider exporting your food products to the UAE, where there is a growing trend of Singapore food exports to the GCC countries. Exports reached US$359 million (S$485 million) in 2015.1 With food importers generally placing high trust in the Singapore brand, you have an advantage over your competitors.
One avenue to enter the UAE market is by participating in the annual food trade show, Gulfood. This popular platform allows you to connect to food industry buyers and sellers from around the region.
Asian food is also becoming more popular in the Gulf. Singapore food companies such as Food Empire, Tai Hua, Tat Hui Foods (Koka) and Tee Yih Jia are exporting to the UAE market. Food and beverage (F&B) chains such as BreadTalk and Pastamania are also expanding to the region.
1: ITC Trademap
The UAE is strategically located at the centre of international trade. Its geographical location and infrastructure make the country an ideal supply and re-distribution gateway. One-third of the world's population lives within a four-hour flight, and two-thirds within eight hours of flight time. It offers huge growth potential for Singapore logistics companies.
According to the World Bank's 2018 Logistics Performance Index (LPI), the UAE ranked 13th out of 160 countries, outperforming its peers in the region. Singapore companies will find the UAE one of the most "logistic friendly" countries to operate in or trade with.
The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry expects a compounded annual growth of about 5% in the UAE's air freight market through 2021. Container port traffic is also expected to rise from 21.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2016 to 28.4 million TEUs by 2021. Dubai can serve as a key node in your trade with the region.
Tourism is a central pillar of UAE’s economic growth and diversification plan. There are opportunities for Singapore companies in food and beverage, retail, hospitality and event management to benefit from the UAE’s booming tourism industry.
Dubai is actively promoting itself as a destination of choice. Under its Tourism Vision 2020, the city aims to attract 20 million visitors a year by 2020. This is double the number of visitors to the city in 2012. Dubai’s hosting of the Expo 2020 is expected to help achieve this target.
Sharjah is another UAE emirate offering opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sector. Unesco declared it the Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998, and reaffirmed this recognition in 2014, when it became the Capital of Islamic Culture.
Singapore companies have started to express interest in Sharjah’s hospitality sector.1 For example, General Hotel Management, a Singapore-based company, is in partnership with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority to develop Al Bait Sharjah, a luxury heritage resort which will feature a collection of converted historic manor houses.
1: Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore Website
The UAE has one of the highest per capita water consumption rates in the world at 550 litres a day. Rapid commercial and industrial growth contributed to the growing demand for water2.
With the country’s water infrastructure under increasing pressure, the UAE government has been investing in water solutions such as wastewater treatment and desalination. These are areas which play perfectly to the strengths of Singapore companies.
In the UAE, almost all drinking water is desalinated. Production capacity of desalinated plants is expected to increase steadily over the next few years, contributing 96.5% of all water produced by 20193. Singapore firms with expertise in solar-powered or nuclear desalination technology can tap opportunities in this area.
2: Export.gov, 2016
3: Export.gov, 2018