Language selection

Search

Market Overview - United Arab Emirates

April 2020

Market snapshot

The United Arab Emirates' (UAE) population is 9.7 million people (2018) with 86.8% of the population residing in urban areas. Over 80% of the population is expatriate, including 59.4% of south Asian origin. Individuals aged 25-54 make up 70.5% of the population.

The UAE has an open, diversified economy that is worth US$382.6 billion (2017) with a per capita income of US$68,600.

Dates are the primary domestic crop in the UAE with fresh vegetables representing the bulk of other domestic crop production. Chickens, goats, and sheep are the UAE's most common domestic livestock animals, representing 98.1% of domestic livestock production, with camels and cattle combined representing 1.9%.

Top agri-food and seafood exports to the UAE in 2018 were milled rice, sugar cane, poultry offal, and powdered milk. Key exporting countries were India, Brazil, the United States (U.S.), and Australia.

Canada was the eighth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood products to the UAE, exporting Can$507.4 million with a 4.9% market share. Top Canadian exports were canola, lentils, durum and non-durum wheat, and shelled peas.

The major retail distribution channels for packaged food are supermarkets and hypermarkets, which offer a large and expanding variety of product choices, including an increasing demand for healthy food and organic products.

A culture of long working hours combined with the country's large expatriate population has meant regular visits to Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) operators are an inescapable part of everyday life for large segments of consumers, making QSR the largest foodservice channel in the UAE.

Consumer profile

The UAE's population is 9.7 million people (2018) with 86.8% of the population residing in urban areas. The population is heavily concentrated in the three largest emirates - Abu Dhabi (1.452 million - capital), Dubai (2.833 million), and Sharjah (1.629 million), which are home to nearly 85% of the population. Over 80% of the population is expatriate, including 59.4% of south Asian origin. Individuals aged 25-54 make up 70.5% of the population.

The UAE has an open, diversified economy that is worth US$382.6 billion (2017) with a per capita income of US$68,600.

Politically and economically, the UAE is seen as one of the most stable countries in the Middle East. It's liberal attitudes combined with its geographical location have also helped the UAE become a highly attractive destination for foreign investment and tourism. Faced with a significant fall in the price of oil in recent years, the country has accelerate plans of reducing its dependency on oil and diversifying its economy towards banking and tourism.

Production

Dates are the primary domestic crop in the UAE with fresh vegetables representing the rest of the UAE's domestic crop production. Eggplant production grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.3%, followed by mangoes, mangosteens, and guavas at a combined CAGR of 27.3% from 2013 to 2017.

Crop production and livestock in the United Arab Emirates Top ten crops (tonnes)
Crops 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* % 2013-2017
Dates 237,864 405,608 587,542 669,631 475,286 18.9
Tomatoes 33,130 41,886 46,550 43,791 41,752 6.0
Vegetables, fresh nes 20,509 23,512 26,053 20,365 34,015 13.5
Cucumbers and gherkins 33,874 35,725 37,549 35,427 33,644 −0.2
Onions, shallots, green 24,613 25,094 25,575 26,056 26,536 1.9
Carrots and turnips 25,536 29,562 54,600 36,518 26,234 0.7
Eggplants (aubergines) 5,178 17,271 18,555 15,633 13,162 26.3
Pumpkins, squash and gourds 5,770 16,426 18,455 13,103 12,523 21.4
Mangoes, mangosteens, guavas 4,033 11,076 12,191 11,735 10,588 27.3
Cabbages and other brassicas 7,583 12,643 13,549 13,641 10,043 7.3

Source: FAOSTAT Agricultural Production, January 2020

*CAGR:Compound Annual Growth Rate

Top three meats produced in the United Arab Emirates, '000 tonnes
Meat[1] 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* % 2013-2017
Pork 56,183 58,208 56,454 54,255 54,518 −0.7
Chicken 13,510 13,156 13,561 12,448 11,600 −3.7
Beef and veal 6,131 6,157 6,169 6,169 6,346 0.9

Source: USDA, January 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

1: Camel, goat, and sheep meat production data unavailable.

Chickens, goats, and sheep are the UAE's most common domestic livestock animals, representing 98.1% of domestic livestock production, with camels and cattle combined representing 1.9%.

Top five livestock produced in the United Arab Emirates, per head
Livestock 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* % 2013-2017
Chickens (000 head) 21,500 22,500 23,249 23,604 23,735 2.5
Goats 1,850,464 2,182,082 2,225,532 2,244,445 2,264,699 5.2
Sheep 2,082,926 2,076,060 2,134,299 2,128,400 2,208,451 1.5
Camels 392,667 423,757 430,372 443,568 451,463 3.5
Cattle 85,359 89,510 110,929 108,384 104,584 5.2

Source: FAOSTAT Agricultural Production, January 2020

*CAGR:Compound Annual Growth Rate

Trade

Top agri-food and seafood exportsFootnote 1 to the UAE in 2019 were milled rice, prepared food, poultry offal, and tobacco cigarettes. Key exporting countries were India, the U.S., Brazil, and the EU. Canada was the sixth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood products to the UAE, exporting Can$691.5 million with a 3.9% market share. Top Canadian exports were canola, lentils, durum and non-durum wheat, and shelled peas.

Top agri-food and seafood exports to the United Arab Emirates, 2019
Commodity Export value Can$ millions Top suppliers and market share Canada's share %
1 2 3
Milled rice 712.5 India: 57.2% Pakistan: 37.2% Thailand: 2.7% 0.0
Prepared food 560.5 United States: 18.1% India: 10.7% Thailand: 8.4% 1.3
Poultry offal 517.9 Brazil: 79.8% United States: 13.1% Ukraine: 2.2% 0.0
Tobacco cigarettes 437.2 South Korea: 30.2% Singapore: 11.4% Hong Kong: 11.1% 0.0
Beef 431.2 Brazil: 64.3% India: 19.1% United States: 9.5% 0.06
Alfalfa 429.5 U.S.: 33.9% Spain: 28.6% Italy: 19.2% 1.1
Powdered milk 381.0 New Zealand: 88.2% Denmark: 2.9% Netherlands: 2.5% 0.0
Canola 380.6 Canada: 94.9% Ukraine: 4.4% Uruguay: 0.2%
Poultry 377.8 Brazil: 88.7% Ukraine: 6.0% France: 3.4% 0.0
Wheat and meslin 3670 Russia: 46.3% Canada: 26.4% Australia: 10.5%
Almonds 351.7 United States: 89.7% Hong Kong: 5.7% Australia: 2.4% 0.0
Malt extract 322.7 Chile: 18.9% Ireland: 15.2% Netherlands: 13.6% 0.0
Whiskies 314.8 U.K.: 49.5% India: 17.7% Netherlands: 10.2% 0.0
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

Processed food and beverage exports to the UAE were valued at Can$11.7 billion in 2019. Brazil, India, the U.S., the EU, and New Zealand were the largest exporters of processed food to the UAE in 2018, providing over 80% of the market. Canada's share was 0.4%. Processed food exports to the UAE fell by a CAGR of −4.9% from 2015 to 2019. The fastest growing exports in the last five years were beef, malt extract, and poultry offal.

Top ten processed food and beverage exports to the United Arab Emirates in Can$ millions
Products 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 CAGR* % 2015-2019
Total 14,309.1 14,820.0 15,291.9 13,245.8 11,706.3 −4.9
Milled rice 942.1 1,093.0 953.3 878.2 712.5 −6.7
Prepared food 551.9 633.0 537.3 517.1 560.5 0.4
Poultry offal 409.6 432.0 500.9 458.6 517.9 6.0
Beef 252.1 243.4 239.4 331.1 431.3 14.4
Alfalfa 429.9 417.0 334.7 368.9 429.5 −0.02
Powdered milk 548.1 376.6 605.8 467.5 381.0 −8.7
Poultry 415.1 382.3 348.3 332.2 377.8 −2.3
Malt extract 235.3 241.8 299.9 298.8 322.7 8.2
Whiskies 357.3 373.5 349.4 420.2 314.8 −3.1
Chocolate 296.6 317.3 280.4 262.5 260.0 −3.2

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Retail sales

Packaged food sales increased by a CAGR of 6.9% between 2014 and 2018 with a further increases of 5.6% forecasted to 2023. The best performing segment was savoury snacks, registering a CAGR of 10.1% from 2014 to 2018. This category includes potato chips, as well as includes nuts, seeds, and trail mixes in line with the growing interest in healthy eating.

The major retail distribution channels for packaged food are supermarkets and hypermarkets. In response to increasing demand for healthy food and organic products, supermarkets and grocery stores have created separate sections within stores for healthy and organic products as well as products for specific food intolerances such as gluten, diabetes and celiac disease.

Historical and forecast agri-food retail sales in the United Arab Emirates, in fixed US$ millions
Products 2014 2018 CAGR* % 2014-2018 2019 2023 CAGR* % 2019-2023
Total 5,146.7 6,719.0 6.9% 7,124.3 8,842.6 5.6
Meat 1,145.5 1,547.9 7.8% 1,623.0 2,004.0 5.4
Dairy & soy food 978.7 1,280.9 7.0% 1,372.7 1,732.1 6.0
Bakery & cereals 937.8 1,262.3 7.7% 1,355.0 1,727.4 6.3
Fish & seafood 659.1 766.7 3.9% 793.0 901.7 3.3
Confectionery 381.2 494.4 6.7% 524.0 655.6 5.8
Savory snacks 238.3 349.9 10.1% 383.1 515.5 7.7
Oils and fats 223.6 275.5 5.4% 288.8 340.4 4.2
Seasonings, dressings & sauces 160.5 219.5 8.2% 234.9 301.3 6.4
Ice cream 111.5 138.5 5.6% 145.4 174.0 4.6
Other dried food 97.0 106.4 2.3% 109.1 124.1 3.3
Pasta & noodles 70.0 91.1 6.8% 97.7 119.7 5.2
Syrups & spreads 54.7 75.9 8.5% 81.8 107.3 7.0
Soups 32.2 40.9 6.2% 43.5 53.2 5.1
Prepared meals 16.3 22.0 7.8% 23.3 29.2 5.8
Other frozen food 18.8 20.6 2.3% 21.2 23.4 2.6
Savory & deli foods 13.0 15.3 4.1% 15.9 18.7 4.1
Meat substitutes 8.7 11.2 6.6% 11.9 15.1 6.1

Source: GlobalData, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

Foodservice market

The foodservice industry in the UAE continues to grow, fuelled by tourism, new infrastructure in preparation for Expo 2020 http://www.expo2020dubai.com (October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021), and one of the highest standards of living in the world. A culture of long working hours combined with the country's large expatriate population has been a boon for QSR operators (fast food), with regular visits to the channel as an inescapable part of everyday life. Additionally, operators have found Western trends transitioning well amongst Emirati consumers, avoiding the need for costly rebranding or product development. These factors have contributed to making QSR the largest foodservice channel in the UAE.

Historical and forecast foodservice retail sales in the United Arab Emirates, in fixed US$ millions
Subsector 2015 2018 CAGR* % 2015-2018 2019 2022 CAGR* % 2019-2022
Total 8,874.3 10,621.0 6.2 11,237.5 13,162.9 5.4
Leisure 128.3 155.2 6.5 165.0 194.9 5.7
Mobile operator 2.2 15.3 90.4 20.3 36.7 21.9
Pub, club and bar 789.9 969.0 7.0 1,034.3 1,245.2 6.4
Restaurant 5,263.5 6,232.0 5.8 6,563.7 7,601.5 5.0
Retail (on-trade) 270.4 317.6 5.5 333.8 384.5 4.8
Travel 532.2 661.2 7.5 709.9 858.6 6.5
Workplace cafe 602.5 694.6 4.9 725.9 826.3 4.4

Source: GlobalData, 2020

*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate

For more information

International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.

For additional intelligence on this and other markets, the complete library of Global Analysis reports can be accessed through the International agri-food market intelligence page.

For additional information on Gulfood 2020, please contact:

Ben Berry, Deputy Director
Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
Agriculture and agri-food Canada
ben.berry@canada.ca

Resources

Market Overview - United Arab Emirates
Global Analysis Report

Prepared by: Kris Clipsham, International Market Research Analyst

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2020).

Photo credits
All photographs reproduced in this publication are used by permission of the rights holders.
All images, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.

To join our distribution list or to suggest additional report topics or markets, please contact:

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Global Analysis
1341 Baseline Rd, Tower 5, 3rd floor
Ottawa ON  K1A 0C5
Canada
Email: aafc.mas-sam.aac@canada.ca

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) assumes no liability for any actions taken based on the information contained herein.

Reproduction or redistribution of this document, in whole or in part, must include acknowledgement of agriculture and agri-food Canada as the owner of the copyright in the document, through a reference citing AAFC, the title of the document and the year. Where the reproduction or redistribution includes data from this document, it must also include an acknowledgement of the specific data source(s), as noted in this document.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides this document and other report services to agriculture and food industry clients free of charge.

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:
Date modified: