Food bosses target €500m of exports to Gulf States by 2020
Irish food bosses headed into the desert at the weekend on a mission to double food exports to the Gulf States within seven years.
Led by the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, 34 food and drink firms are on a week-long whistle-stop tour of Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
They range from multi-billion euro businesses such as ABP, Dawn and Kepak to farming innovators such as crisp manufacturer Tom Keogh.
Mr Keogh, who is already exporting potatoes and crisps to Abu Dhabi, joined 60 other delegates hoping to share in the €500m of food that Ireland aims to export to the Middle East by 2020.
"The opportunities here are just extraordinary," said Minister Coveney, just one day into the trip. "The target is €500m but I think we can go way beyond that. We export 90pc of what we produce and these countries import up to 90pc of what they eat, so we're an obvious match."
The oil-rich Gulf States have some of the highest incomes per capita in the world and young and rapidly growing populations.
However, with farmland limited to as little as 1.25pc of the total land area, the region is almost totally dependent on imports to meet its escalating food requirements.
Gulf sovereign funds have already poured billions into leasing and buying over 1m acres of land around the world to secure future food supplies for the region.