According to the “Health and Wellness” report by Euromonitor, sales of organic and sustainable F&B products in the GCC are expected to continue rising as consumers revert their focus on quality, safety and origins of what they eat. With this conscious consumption trend likely to gather pace in the coming years, the European Union is on track to be the world’s top supplier of organic and sustainable agri-food products by 2030 and the leading exporter of these products to the GCC.
These insights were shared during a recent trade webinar. The ‘More Than Food’ webinar was part of an initiative by the European Union to educate the region’s F&B industry about the benefits of importing European agricultural products and how they can encourage their customers to discover more about the different types of EU products. The discussion was moderated by radio presenter Brandy Scott, Host of Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast programme and the panellists included:
- Sergio Pavon, European Commission DG Agriculture, International Trade Relations;
- Chef Thomas Gugler, President of the World Chefs Association; and
- Somaia Basha, Research manager at Euromonitor International.
The discussion focused on how the push by local GCC governments to address the diet-related health issues affecting the region, coupled with the increasing health consciousness of consumers, is accelerating the demand for non-GMO foods, organic food, and sustainable farming practices.
While enhanced local production and sustainable agricultural practices are a priority to secure the GCC’s food supply, the speakers agreed this will always have to be balanced with safeguarding imports against potential future shocks. Importers highlighted the need for clearer and unified legislation for the import of organic products to allow these goods to flow faster to the wider GCC. They also called for the streamlining of border control procedures.
“Consumers are increasingly associating natural ingredients with health. As a result, ingredients with a number of health benefits, such as whole grain, have come into prominence,” said Somaia Basha, referring to Euromonitor’s research which provided base statistics on what motivates the average consumer when buying F&B products.
“Consumers want to know that their food is safe, how it was produced, where it came from, and it’s footprint. Over the last ten years, the EU organic sector has been growing at an impressive and staggering rate. The EU organic farming area has increased by 70% and in 2018 was worth 40.7 billion Euros, making the EU the second largest organic market in the world. With the help of our ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, we aim to have 25% of EU farmland farmed organically by 2030 to become the world’s top supplier of organic agri-food products,” said Mr. Sergio Pavon.
The EU has some of the most stringent regulations for products that are certified and labelled as organic which govern the production, processing, transportation, and storage of these goods. The EU organic leaf logo is 10 years old and can only be used on products that contain at least 95% organic ingredients and satisfy further strict conditions for the remaining 5%.
Traceability is also a big part EU organic certification – next to the EU organic logo, a code number for the authorizing control agency must be displayed as well as the place where the agricultural raw materials composing the product have been farmed. This marque of quality, safety, and authenticity ensures that all EU organic products, whether destined for local EU markets or international markets, meet the same high standards.
Mr. Sergio Pavon remarked that the EU continues to work towards establishing a Free Trade Agreement with the GCC to further boost bilateral trade. He also highlighted the importance of strengthening relations between EU-certified organic producers and their GCC counterparts to enhance local food systems following the guidelines of the EU Farm to Fork strategy.
The GCC is currently the EU’s 5th biggest export market for agri-food products, with total exports reaching 7.7 billion Euros in 2019. At an individual country level, the EU supplies between 15 and 20% of the agri-food imports to each Gulf market.