Leading the first trade mission by Bord Bia to the Gulf region since the start of Covid-19, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue will travel with Bord Bia to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this weekend.

He will be accompanied by 14 Irish food and drink companies to launch Bord Bia’s new three-year business strategy for the region. 

Despite market volatility from Covid-19 on trade, Bord Bia said that exports by Irish companies to Saudi Arabia and the UAE were valued at €155 million last year.

UAE market opportunities

Bord Bia has identified Saudi Arabia and the UAE as priority markets in the region, accounting for a combined 50% of current Irish trade in the Gulf region.

In 2021, Irish food and drink exports to the wider Middle East market were valued at €311 million comprising dairy and dairy ingredients worth €272 million, followed by consumer foods at €21 million. 

Bord Bia’s new three-year strategy outlines a target of €380 million in Irish food and drink exports to the wider Middle East region by 2025, led by dairy and consumer foods.

In this plan Ireland will target exports of more than €100 million to Saudi Arabia and €85 million to the UAE by 2025.

According to Bord Bia, the key objectives for the trade mission with the agriculture minister over the coming week are:

  • To help drive commercial opportunities for Irish dairy and consumer food exporters in the region;
  • Improve government-to-government engagement in the UAE and Saudi Arabia;
  • Enhance the reputation of Ireland as a trusted supplier and trading partner for high-quality, sustainably produced food and drink products.  

Ailish Forde, global business development director, Bord Bia, said:

“The Gulf region represents high potential growth opportunities for Irish food and drink producers, a market that values high quality products, and where Ireland is recognised for its excellence in producing sustainably produced products.

“Our new Bord Bia strategy for the region provides a roadmap for our ambitions to substantially increase Irish exports. Sustainability is at the heart of all of Bord Bia’s work over the next three years and building strength in sustainability is a strategic enabler for the industry.”

She said that in a region where as much as 80-90% of food is imported, food security remains a key strategic and policy priority for Gulf states. 

“Currently there are 43 million people living in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and by 2050 this is expected to increase to 58 million,” Forde added.

“Population growth has played, and will continue to play, a significant role in the surge in demand for food and food imports.

“Despite successes in developing domestic food production capabilities, these countries will remain largely reliant on importing food. Ireland is ideally positioned to meet this demand and, through Origin Green, can provide the perfect solution for the growing demands of consumers whose changing dietary habits mean they are becoming more aware of the need to purchase sustainably produced food.” 


Bord Bia said that the UAE continues to be an important market for the premiumisation of Irish beef.

During the five-day trade mission, Bord Bia plans on inaugurating a new Chefs’ Irish Beef Club (CIBC) member into the Dubai chapter.

CIBC is an exclusive international forum which brings together some of the world’s most high-profile chefs who collectively endorse Irish beef.

Speaking ahead of the trade mission, Minister McConalogue said:

”Our Food Vision 2030 strategy sets a strong ambition for future value growth in Irish agri-food exports to €21 billion by 2030, based on our premium quality, safe and sustainably produced food products, with family farms as the bedrock of our food system.

“The current market dynamics of the Gulf region, including strong GDP [gross domestic product] and increased consumer spending power, will make it an increasingly important market for our export-focused food industry.”

The trade mission will take in Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food, beverage and hospitality trade exhibition (February 13-17), and a visit to the Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods themed week at EXPO 2020 (February 17– 23).

At these events, the delegation will be part of a series of client seminars and Bord Bia-organised panel discussions held at the Irish Pavilion. 

Through these events, Bord Bia said it is investing in direct business conversion by targeting buyers across retail, foodservice and manufacturing over the five-day mission.

This will be bolstered by an additional 15 C-Suite meetings with existing and targeted customers to profile Ireland’s sustainable food and drink suppliers and showcase their innovative commercial capabilities.

Additionally, a key focus for the trade mission will be a meeting in Dubai with the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, and a meeting in Riyadh with the Minister for Environment, Water and Agriculture, Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen A. AlFadley, plus the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, all with a view to enhancing market access for Irish exporters. 

During the trade mission there will also be a three week-long retail promotion with high-end supermarket Spinneys which will focus on the quality and sustainability credentials of Irish suppliers and manufacturers. 

Spinneys is a multinational supermarket chain active in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Oman and Pakistan.