Imports of plants, flowers and trees experience stable growth at an average of 24.6%, while the fruit and vegetables market continues to increase by an average of 5.6% each year.
Dubai, UAE, November 6, 2016: The UAE is taking considerable steps towards sustainability and the city of Dubai hopes to be “green” by 2020, with 4% of the city dedicated to park land and all new buildings required to allocate a percentage of the plot to green spaces. At the same time, the UAE population is steadily increasing in the build up to Expo 2020 and the number of tourists and business travellers who stay in the UAE each year continues to grow. Dubai alone is expected to host over 15 million visitors before the end of 2016.
While the desert has its own appeal, residents and visitors alike have come to expect a greener landscape and easy access to fresh produce. This equates to an extraordinary demand for plants, trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables. With 90% of land in the Gulf states unsuitable for agriculture and aquifers depleting, this demand cannot be met from within the region, making imports big business.
Continued growth in the construction, property development and hospitality sectors has bolstered imports of plants, flowers and trees with the market growing at an average of 24.6% year on year, from US$29.5m in 2011 to US$71.2m in 20151. Dubai and Abu Dhabi's aggressive expansion indicates this growth will continue over the coming years.
The population of the UAE is approaching 10 million which, for a country that imports over 80% of its food, represents a sizeable opportunity for exporters in other countries. Imports of fruit and vegetables have increased by an average of 5.6% per year, from US$2.27bn in 2011 to US$2.82bn in 20152. Even accounting for inflation at 3% and a UAE population increase of 1.5% per year, averaged over the same period, this represents considerable growth.
The increasing dependency on foreign imports only serves to reinforce ties with other nations as trade relations strengthen. Tarek Sibai, Project Manager at planetfair, the company behind IPM Dubai - International Plants Expo and WOP Dubai, the International Perishables Expo, said “Through our exhibitions, I have witnessed the growth in the industry as the UAE develops trade relations. The relationship between India and the UAE received a lot of attention this year as bilateral trade reached US$50bn, making India one of the UAE's most significant trading partners.” Sibai went on to say “The dependency on foreign imports is also driving research and development of technology and solutions for growing food locally and reducing the UAE's carbon footprint.”
One new company, Pure Harvest, is using the latest hydroponic farming technology from the Netherlands to grow fruit and vegetables locally. Their high-tech greenhouses allow precise climate and environmental control to ensure the best possible conditions, increasing productivity whilst reducing waste. They can grow all year long, even in the harshest summer conditions, without chemicals or pesticides.
Tarek Sibai adds, “The Dubai Municipality is getting closer to achieving its goal of making the Emirate a worldwide trading centre for fruit and vegetables. The future looks very bright for those who operate in the UAE's perishables industry, with many more lucrative opportunities becoming accessible within the sector, as it continues to grow.”