THERE ARE market opportunities in the Middle East for the UK's red meat industry.

According to a recent export webinar by AHDB, the region has a growing population with a high disposable income, and imports around 90% of all beef and lamb consumed locally - making it a key target for market exporters

While shipments of lamb to the Middle East increased 319% between 2018 and 2019, AHDB’s halal sector manager Dr Awal Fuseini pointed out that the UK only exports a small amount in comparison to other countries.

“We recognise the significance of the Middle East and while volumes of lamb are increasing, there is room for us to take a larger share of the 90% import requirements for the region," he said. "We have seen there is an appetite for UK lamb in the Middle East and we must do more to maximise on the potential opportunities it presents.

“One of the biggest issues faced by our exporters presently is halal certification," he explained. "Not all UK based certification bodies are recognised and accredited so it is therefore vitally important that you choose your certifier wisely as without accreditation, your products will be rejected on arrival.”

Dr Fuseini stressed the important role of meat in the Middle Eastern diet, with high levels consumed at social events and festivals. With the region's population expected to grow from 250 million in 2017 to 265 million within the next few months, he said it was crucial the UK takes advantage of the opportunity.

The webinar also featured a presentation from Adil Khan, from the Department for International Trade in Dubai, who gave an overview of its work in the Middle East, highlighting the significance of the region, in particular that the Gulf Cooperation Council is the UK’s second largest export market outside Europe – importing more UK products than China and three-times the volumes exported to India.

Mr Khan also revealed that within the GCC, the United Arab Emirates makes up 40% of UK trade, with sheep meat being the most popular red meat, accounting for more than 60% of total red meat consumption.

AHDB's plans to promote the UK’s red meat offering in the Middle East include attendance at the popular food and drink trade exhibition Gulfood in February next year. Dr Fuseini concluded: “While we cannot predict what will happen over the next six months with the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, we are hopeful that international travel will resume and we can continue our missions and attend trade shows in 2021 to highlight the quality and high standards of our red meat in this all-important market.”