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Strength in numbers

Irish exports to Middle East up 10% in 2022

Article appeared in issue 1, 2023

Bord Bia (Irish food board) aims to increase exports to the wider Middle East market to €380 million by 2025 and, based on recent statistics obtained by Irishfood for 2022, the numbers are going in the right direction

The most up-to-date figures from Bord Bia show that food and drink exports to the Middle East in 2022 were estimated at €364.5m, up 10% on 2021. Within that, dairy exports increased by 8% to €311.3m, while prepared consumer foods (PCF) were up by 20%, to €23.6m.

Exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are estimated to have grown by 49% in 2022 to €92m, driven by increases across dairy, drinks and PCF. Dairy exports are estimated to have grown by 36% to €67m; drinks have increased over six-fold to €12.1m, and PCF is up 36% to €10m. Seafood exports of €1.4m remain unchanged. 



These details set a very positive scene for the Irish companies that are due to exhibit at Gulfood 2023, which are profiled in this issue of  and align well with the findings of a report published recently, on behalf of the Arab Irish Chamber of Commerce (AICC). 

Irish SMEs should consider countries in the Arab region if they are seeking to expand their reach, and export partners, according to the report’s author, renowned Irish economist, Jim Power. “The countries of the Arab world import many of the products and services that Irish companies can supply competitively; they have considerable resources to fund their imports; their rising populations cause demand to grow year after year; and they are relatively close to Ireland in terms of accessibility.”


Do your research

The report found that, overall exports from Ireland to the Arab world reached record levels in 2022, increasing by 23% in the first nine months. The region of 21 states has a growing population of more than 444 million people, representing 5.5% of the world’s population and accounting for 3.1% of the world’s economy. The population of the region is growing rapidly and is forecast to exceed 500 million, 6% of the global population, by 2028.

The report author, Jim Power, said that the international reputation for Irish products is strong there: “Irish agricultural produce is regarded as high quality, with a strong organic component,” he added.

CEO of the Arab Irish Chamber of Commerce (AICC), Ahmad Younis, said it’s a market brimming with potential for Irish SMEs and advises that companies make use of all available resources: “There is a lot of help and guidance available at a local level to entrepreneurs interested in exploring exporting options. 

“Start by having conversations with organisations like Bord Bia and the AICC. Enterprise Ireland also has specialist teams to specifically support Irish firms in getting started and can explain the different business models that operate out there. Do your research and find out what’s right for you and your business.”


Growing markets

Two food and agricultural-related opportunities for growth have been identified in the report. 

  • Food sector: Growing populations along with constrained and relatively underdeveloped agriculture in the region means there is an ongoing opportunity for Irish businesses operating in the food sector and, in particular, dairy and meat.

  • Agricultural advice and training: These are expected to be growth areas as countries look to improve their food security and production capacity.

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