Opportunities for the Organic Fresh Produce Market in the Middle East
The organic and natural Fresh Produce market is truly on the rise, with both local production and imports well underway. Here are snippets from our live session at the 2nd Organic and Natural Digital Expo with experts from the region and across the world.
Organic has a strong presence, now more than ever before
“In terms of consumer demand, organic has a strong presence, now more than ever before. Especially post-pandemic. People are looking for healthier options. A lot of points revolve around reinforcing the immune system. As such, the government is doing a lot of programs to support local agriculture,” started Yazen Al Kodmani, Operations Manager at Emirates Bio Farm, with over 60 varieties of fresh produce from the UAE desert.
Additionally, Monique Naval, Senior Analyst at Euromonitor International, the World’s leading independent provider of strategic market research, stated, “Yes, organic health and wellness are on the rise. 58% of respondents from The Euromonitor health and wellness survey said that the top reason they consume organic food is that there are no GMOs or pesticides. Food safety and security are the second reason. Thirdly, 47% of respondents said environmental concerns are important.”
Panagiotis (Panos) Chatzilazaridis, Founder and CEO, Managi, high-end exports of top-quality Greek food, beverage and cosmetics producers, said, “The rise of organic food can be attributed to people wanting healthy and immune-system-friendly foods. While logistics is an issue, with the right strategy for price and transport, we can make organic the norm.”
Even food service companies are moving towards organic produce
“Currently, consumers are after organic cucumbers, bananas, and more. However, they also want unique products such as different sizes of cucumber, zucchini, unique herbs, a variety of crops, chilis, and more,” said Al-Kodmani.
“Items that are trending include ready-to-eat salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. Even food service companies are moving towards organic produce,” Naval opined.
“I would like to add something about the fruit market. I see a lot of demand for organic strawberries cherries, peaches, and olives,” shared Chatzilazaridis.
There is a strong National Food Security agenda that is being worked towards
“There is a strong National Food Security agenda that is being worked towards. There is a drive to improve local talents, programs with the military, training programs on farms, both high tech and low tech and to also expand the knowledge bases in the country,” shared Al Kodmani.
Naval had similar thoughts, “The country’s national food security is aiming to be number 1 in the global food security index by 2051. As we’re in the middle of a desert, the UAE will be a hub for agricultural technologies to develop further. The government is strongly supporting initiatives and startups.”
Products are imported from all over the world
“We tend to import grains from Asia, especially India. For corn, the region looks to the US. Regionally, Iran and Oman are major markets. Lebanon, Africa, Kenya, and more, are also contenders. For high-quality organic, Spain is the place we look at,” Al-Kodmani said.
The region is highly competitive so high quality is a must
When asked about criteria for suppliers to enter the region, Al-Kodmani commented, “The region is highly competitive so high quality is a must. The UAE is a great gateway to enter the region.”
Naval said, “Quality is a given and price is also a consideration. We need to look towards more affordable products and scale organic produce.”
Chatzilazaridis opined, “Suppliers must go for consistency. We have to get into the mind of the buyer. Just because a country is considered richer doesn’t mean they would be willing to pay a premium.”
Certification is super important to educate consumers
“Certification is super important to educate consumers. Many companies simply put the word organic on their name, but their products say otherwise. Stringent laws ensure better education,” said Al-Kodmani.
We will keep seeing an increase in buyers and consumers getting healthy food
On predictions of the organic and natural sector, Chatzilazaridis said, “We will keep seeing an increase in buyers and consumers getting healthy food. If we have a firm and consistent strategy to market products and be consistent, I can see this trend on the rise.”
Naval stated, “We still expect healthy and organic products to keep momentum across our forecast period. It was associated with something fashionable before but now it’s what consumers truly want. I do feel farm visits will help further their education.”
“Even if health is not the primary consideration, environmental sustainability is. I would say that 50% of people care about health while the other 50% is concerned about animal welfare, the environment, and nature at large,” Al-Kodmani stated.