Dubai, UAE: Seafood consumers throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are increasingly turning to sustainable sources as the need to conserve stocks internationally begins to hit home.
The trend towards sustainable resources is being highlighted at SEAFEX, the region’s first professional seafood show, which runs at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 7-9 November 2016.
Among the 145 plus exhibitors from more than 25 nations taking part in the show are sustainability leaders from Europe, the Levant and Mauritius, who all say regional diners are becoming more socially-conscious and demand products for changing lifestyle preferences.
“People right now are more driven towards fresh seafood than ever,” said Abbas Muntaser, Marketing Executive at European Seafood, which specialises in live seafood and live aquaculture raised fish.
“This is not just because of its many beneficial effects on human health, but also as a source of sustainable food that can last for generations to come and provide for better lifestyles.”
In its first official SEAFEX appearance, Enterprise Mauritius (EM), the national trade promotion organisation of the Republic of Mauritius, will go all out to promote sustainability as it moves to gain a foothold into the MENA seafood market now valued at US $272 million according to a recent report by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
Mauritius will mount one of 13 national and industry pavilions at SEAFEX, which also sees first-time official participation from the Philippines. Mauritius says its show debut will help position the country as “a favourable destination for sustainable aquaculture and higher value-added seafood processing.”
Seafood processing is now the second most important manufacturing sector in Mauritius, employing 12,000 people and contributing 1.5 per cent to overall gross domestic product. Last year the country exported €337 million worth of seafood which represented 16 per cent of its overall domestic exports, according to Arvind Radhakrishna, CEO, Enterprise Mauritius.
“As a specialised sub-sector of the seafood industry, sustainable aquaculture ranks high on the Mauritian Government’s agenda and around 22 sites have been earmarked around the island for the setting-up of in-lagoon fish breeding. Farming of high-value and niche products such as cobia, sea cucumber, oyster and oyster pearls, crabs, sea-urchins and other shellfish are being encouraged,” said Radhakrishna, CEO, Enterprise Mauritius.
“Red Drum and European Seabass are currently cultivated under aquaculture within the sheltered lagoon on the Eastern coast of Mauritius. As well as being an approved and certified Sustainable Aquaculture facility by the organisation Friend of the Sea. The hatchery and farm production is designed following the principles of sustainable farming practices. All precautions are undertaken to ensure that the farms and their conditions mimic those found naturally. The farm aims to increase its annual production from 800 tons in 2015 to 3,000 tons by 2018 with the main export destinations including the USA, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.”
Three heavyweight Mauritian producers will share the pavilion – Prince Tuna (Mauritius), SAPMER Premium Seaproducts and Ferme Marine de Mahebourg. The trio will promote their preserved and frozen tuna, farmed fresh red drum and seabass, rock lobster and live fish exports. SAPMER says it has detected increasing demand from importers of premium, 100 per cent natural products, as well as sustainable and certified products.
Ferme Marine de Mahebourg will leverage SEAFEX to explore Middle East demand for fresh fish imports. “Internationally, demand is rising for fresh, sustainable; GMO free and farmed fish products fed without land based animal fat. Our farm is certified sustainable by Friend of the Sea and we have pursued further certifications and will soon achieve Global Gap and Halal certifications,” said Tommy P. Sawmy, Sales Manager at Ferme Marine de Mahebourg.
“Our fresh fish can be delivered to this region within 24 hours of harvest and our fish grow in pure waters free from environmental pollution in a warm, year tropical climate without stress. We are interested to gauge Middle East reaction to this proposition.”
Meanwhile, Siblou, a Middle Eastern sector heavyweight headquartered in Lebanon, says consumers are not only more socially-conscious, they are increasingly health conscious – factors pushing up demand for seafood.
“Over the past year we are seeing that consumers are seeking healthy, clean, and a diversified diet; food with real ingredients. The modern consumers want food that is natural and convenient at the same time. Additionally, they want food that contains a healthy dose of nutritional fat – consumers are now aware that they need to know where their food is coming from, where it is sourced and produced, and the need to trust what they are consuming” said Camil Ishak, Managing Director, Siblou. “All of this is contributing to a massive increase in seafood demand.”
Consumer-driven-demands are shaping the future of the MENA’s seafood market, according to Andrew Pert, Show Director, Exhibitions & Events Management, DWTC, the SEAFEX organiser.
“The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation has identified consumer interest in sustainability as an emerging trend within the Middle East and this is reflected throughout the SEAFEX exhibitor profile. With organised information campaigns such as the WWF’s ‘Choose Wisely’ campaign in the UAE, lessons have been taken up by restauranteurs and retailers. In this instance, SEAFEX is a window to the future of an industry which has the consumer firmly at its core.”
SEAFEX 2016 will feature over 145 brands from more than 25 countries. This year’s show will span 4,500 square metres, up 12.5 per cent on last year, with new exhibitors from the UK, Norway, the USA, UAE and Vietnam helping to grow year-on-year exhibitor figures by 11 per cent.
SEAFEX is among a trio of conveniently segmented food events which also include the gourmet Specialty Food Festival and Yummex Middle East, the region’s leading international trade fair for the confectionery and snacks market. The trio is co-located alongside Gulfood Manufacturing – the Middle East’s biggest food manufacturing, processing, packaging, logistics and materials handling exhibition – which attracts more than 30,000 attendees looking to allocate their annual, back-end food & beverage budgets.
DWTC’s trio of niche food events are open from 10am-5pm from 7-9 November 2016 and are for trade and business professionals only. General public and persons under the age of 21 will not be permitted entry. Registration is available at the show upon proof of trade status.