By Lynne Nolan
Gulfood 2008 has witnessed the arrival of its biggest Indian pavilion to date.
Indian participation at Gulfood 2008, one of the world's leading food, drink, foodservice and hospitality equipment exhibitions has grown by 50% this year, according to organiser Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).
A host of leading companies and organisations from India are taking space at this year's exhibition, including the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the Coffee Board of India and the Spice Board of India, and specialised companies such as Mrs Bector's Foods Specialities, Beez India Natural Products and Antarctica Equipments.
More than 80 companies and organisations are participating at this year's event, which will finish tomorrow evening, as part of the Indian national pavilion or individually as independent exhibitors.
"India is launching a major drive to increase exports of agricultural and processed food products to the Gulf countries and attract investment in the sector. The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and surrounding region offer huge potential for Indian food, since the region has historically been reliant on imported products," said A.S. Rawat, general manager, APEDA.
Figures from APEDA point to the significant opportunity that exists for Indian food exports. Food exports to the GCC region are worth an estimated $3 billion a year, with agricultural and processed food exports from India to the UAE alone accounting for more than $273 million. Total annual trade between India and the GCC currently exceeds $15 billion, 15% of India's total foreign trade.
The region is increasingly important for achieving long-term strategic goals. India currently exports US$875 million a year worth of spices, with the Middle East as a key export and re-export market. The country has set a target of increasing spice exports to US$10 billion in the next ten years.
The Indian Spice Board is exhibiting at Gulfood 2008, with an exclusive pavilion for exporters. Deputy Directors Lakshmikutty and Jagadeesan will attend the event to represent the Spice Board.
Elly Habt, project manager of Gulfood from DWTC, said: "The strong participation of Indian companies at Gulfood 2008 will make an enormous contribution to the overall success of the event, since Indo-GCC business development is a major attraction for visitors and exhibitors."
Gulfood 2008 has welcomed more than 2500 companies from 70 countries specialising in the food, drink and hospitality sectors, over 86% of which have come from outside of the UAE.
The high number of new country pavilions making their debut this year, including Ecuador, Hungary, Lithuania, Malawi, Northern Ireland, Poland, Switzerland and Uruguay, has reinforced the global scope this year.
According to APEDA, the Middle East is already a target market for more than three-quarters of India's main export products, including fresh fruit and vegetables, various meats such as sheep and goat, confectionery and dairy items.
The Restaurant & Café Middle East made its debut this year. Held alongside Gulfood, this exhibition will showcase the latest innovations in interiors, equipment, supplies and services, providing innovative and practical solutions to architects, baristas, executive chefs, designers, food and beverage directors and Proprietors.