The Food Export–Northeast seafood team planned and held its first in-market trade mission in Dubai. Dubai and the GCC counties hold a lot of potential for U.S. lobster and oyster suppliers.
Food Export–Northeast is committed to expanding export markets for the Northeast U.S. seafood industry and creating new export sales opportunities for the region’s suppliers. Recently, the Food Export–Northeast seafood team planned and held its first in-market trade mission in Dubai.
Over the course of the three-day trade mission, American lobster and oyster suppliers including Greenhead Lobster, LLC, Maine Coast, Ready Seafood, and Island Creek Oysters along with the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative’s ambassador harvester were able to meet face to face with buyers from several countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
“Having feet on the ground and eyes in the market provides suppliers the chance to get a more accurate picture of the market opportunities and its constraints,” said Colleen Coyne, Seafood Program Coordinator, Food Export–Northeast. “Meeting and talking with buyers on their own turf also allows suppliers to develop stronger business relationships, which ultimately helps to facilitate better long-term business conversations.”
Dubai and the GCC represent a potentially rich export market opportunity for American lobster and Northeast U.S. seafood suppliers. In 2018, U.S. seafood exports to six GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) amounted to $14.4 million, while total U.S. food and agricultural exports comprised $3.3 billion. Additionally, Dubai is a leading trade hub for re-exporting food products to its neighboring GCC countries, other Middle East countries, East and North Africa, the Indian subcontinent as well as Central Asian countries.
“Currently, U.S. seafood exports are a relatively small percentage at only about a half a percent of total U.S. food exports, which means there is significant room for Northeast U.S. seafood to grow and expand this market,” noted Coyne.
The Northeast U.S. suppliers in attendance truly got a lay of the land with a visit to the Dubai Seafood Market and tours of four supermarkets and hypermarkets that display fresh and live seafood. A market briefing was given by the Foreign Agricultural Service Office (FAS/USDA) of Agricultural Affairs in Dubai followed by meetings with individual buyers.
Maine lobsterman Brian Rapp kicked off the evening product showcase with a dynamic and interactive discussion about how the U.S. commercial lobster fishery has been managed sustainably through its 150-year history. Seventy guests, mainly buyers and chefs, watched a cooking demonstration and sampled dishes featuring American lobster and oysters.
Participating seafood suppliers drew good buyer interest. In total, 39 supplier/buyer introductions generated 20 new distributorships and sales of $800,000. Company participants estimated future potential sales totaling $1.8 million.
Coyne summed it up, “Although it is too early to predict what the long-term sustained sales impact will be, this is a good initial step in expanding this market. The opportunities for lobster, oysters and other Northeast U.S. seafood products in Dubai and the GCC countries show good potential. Now that the door has been opened, we will continue to push it wider by adding more promotional and educational events in this market. This first trip has helped us set the stage for activities in 2020.”
About Food Export USA—Northeast
With its extensive programs and educational offerings, Food Export USA–Northeast (Food Export–Northeast) is recognized as the preeminent expert and cost-effective resource for Northeast seafood and agricultural suppliers looking to sell their products overseas. Founded in 1973, Food Export–Northeast is a non-profit organization that works collaboratively with its 10 member states’ agricultural promotion agencies from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, to facilitate trade between suppliers and worldwide importers and to promote the export of food, agricultural and seafood products from those states. Since its founding, the organization has helped Northeast seafood suppliers gain access to a broad range of export markets, supported overseas in-market educational and promotional programs and offers emerging suppliers access to funds to help grow their export business. The organization is funded through the Market Access Program (MAP), administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
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