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Tue 8 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Organic trade event reaches mainstream

The Middle East Natural & Organic Products Expo, a trade show dedicated to natural and organic foods, has earned a move to a larger venue.

The Middle East Natural & Organic Products Expo, a trade show dedicated to natural and organic foods, has earned a move to a larger venue. After this year’s edition takes place on December 6-8 at the Grand Hyatt Convention Centre, the show will relocate to two halls of the Dubai World Trade Centre from 2006.

Girish Dabrai, managing director of Global Links, the show organiser, says that the move reflects 30% annual growth in exhibitor numbers.

“We have roughly 250 companies from all over the world: we have official pavilions from Germany, Italy, France and America,” Dabrai told Retail News Middle East. “Four months ago, we were sold out [for 2005] and for next year we’ve already got a place at the Trade Centre.”

Although there are no figures to indicate the size of the regional organic foodstuffs market, Dabrai is adamant that consumer interest is real and growing. “It is already visible in this market. More and more outlets are springing up, more distributors are getting into the business and people here are becoming more health conscious,” he said.

In recent years, a small number of distribution companies focused on organic foods have opened their doors and around a dozen companies from the UAE are exhibiting at December’s event. Dubai has also seen the opening this year of an organic supermarket chain, which now has two outlets.

The organic food market could be given further impetus by the support of the UAE’s Ministry of Agriculture. It has lent its official endorsement to the show, along with the Ministry of Health, and has begun encouraging the country’s farmers to switch to organic techniques.

The country does not yet have organic certification, but the ministry is known to be working on the creation of an official standard. Certifications vary by country, but food is generally deemed organic once soil has been free of chemicals and pesticides for five years.

Exhibitors at the show, now in its third year, seem to like it, with repeat participation standing at 70%. “Not many distributors [of organics] have sprung up in this market, but people who are coming in often sell directly to retailers, such as the organic supermarket [Organic Foods & Café.] Two years ago, we hardly saw any organic and now every major supermarket has a shelf for organic products,” said Dabrai.

As well as its growing exhibitor base, there is also increasing diversity in the show’s visitor base. “In the first year, the vast majority of visitors came from the UAE,” Dabrai added.

The first two days of the show are reserved for trade visitors and the third day is opened up to the public. Around 9000 people are expected to attend this year.

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