The 18th edition of the four-day Gulfood which started Monday attracted over 4,200 participating companies from 110 countries and is the world`s biggest food and hospitality congress.
Despite significant price differences between meat producers in the West and East, European meat firms emphasizing food safety and food security are upbeat on the Gulf Arab region`s market prospects although the ongoing horse meat scandal, a meat adulteration scandal which casts a shadow on the entire industry segment.
For Dr. Stefan Mauritz, sales director of Germany`s poultry giant Wiesenhof International, quality is all about control of the own food processing flow.
Mauritz said Wiesenhof had been exporting to the Gulf since 2005 and that also in the future customers will never find horse meat in Wiesenhof products, "simply because our vertical integrated chain guarantees that our chicken meat comes from our own farms and hatcheries."
He added that when different food ingredient suppliers from different countries contribute to the end product, the probability was higher that non-declared ingredients became part of mostly cheap meat packages offered in supermarkets.
Wiesenhof`s principle of having a complete food process chain without ingredients from a third party applies to the Netherland`s VanDrie Group, one of Europe`s biggest calf meat producer.
Henny Swinkels, corporate affairs director of VanDrie Group, said "We have been exporting to the Gulf region for more than a year and interest rising, also because our meat is ISO 22,000- certified, the globally accepted standard for food safety."
Mauritz noted a growing interest in quality meat, "even if European products are a bit more expensive than similar goods from developing countries."
Swinkels agreed and said that quality had its price. "Our farms are controlled by Netherland`s official food regulatory body, and in line with our corporate social responsibility, we constantly find ways to reduce the use of antibiotics in our livestock farming centers," said Swinkel.
Carlos Tomas, regional sales manager of Spain`s third biggest poultry firm Noel, said that while his country was hardly affected by the horse meat scandal, Noel stressed communicating at the Gulfood the importance of food quality. "Buyers do not look only at the price, they want also to know what we offer, where the meat comes from and so on," said Tomas.
Food security was also the topic of a minister`s table held under Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, United Arab Emirates (UAE) minister of environment and water, who was joined by government ministers and heads of international trade delegations from Argentina, New Zealand, Turkey, UAE and the United Kingdom.
The discussions focused on current and future food needs, identifying regional food security and food safety objectives and discussing how the global food supply chain can support them.