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Food standards high on Gulf countries' agenda

(Xinhua)

10:05, February 23, 2012

DUBAI, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- With their food imports to hit 51 million tons in 2020 (currently 40.6 million tons), Gulf countries are pushing up the hygienic standards of their food and beverage ( F&B) industry and are opening more doors to exporters across the globe, according to the trends shown at the ongoing Gulfood held in Dubai.

The Gulf Arab's total population will grow from 40 million to 50 million by 2020. According the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Ministry of Foreign Trade, some 90 percent of the country's comestible goods are imported due to its hot and humid desert climate.

The entire Arab world comprises some 350 million people. Because of this, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is an El Dorado for the global food industry, as it can be seen at the 17th Gulfood from Feb. 19 to 22 in Dubai, where about 3,800 firms from 88 countries came to exhibit and some 70,000 visitors in the industry are expected.

Due to a number of food scandals in recent years, the UAE has raised the hygienic standards of the F&B industry. In every restaurant, fast food outlet and hotel, there must be a person responsible for the cleanness in the kitchen and the dining areas.

In 2011, the Dubai Municipality found that 250 restaurants were unsafe in terms of hygienic practices. 15 food outlets were temporarily closed, while 97 percent of the inspected fish sellers which were warned in the first half of 2011.

Accordingly, exporters to the region face two challenges. The Arab states demand the F&B companies not only fulfill strict quality standards similar to those in the European Union (EU) but also be processed in line with the Islamic Law.

According to the research group Euromonitor International, the global halal food industry has reached 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars in 2010 and is going to double by 2014.

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