The Hon Marlene Kairouz MP - travel report - United Arab Emirates, 14 - 17 February 2020

Minister The Hon Marlene Kairouz MP

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation
Minister for Suburban Development

Countries visited United Arab Emirates
Date of travel 14 to 17 February 2020 (inclusive)
No. of official travel days
(including day of departure and day of return)
4 days
Number of accompanying ministerial staff 1
Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding for the overseas trip was paid by (list department/s or agency) Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $24,314*
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $3,552*
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances) $2,117*
Travel cost for minister and staff $29,983*

*The above costs are not final and complete

Purpose of travel

The key purpose of my travel was to lead a delegation of 25 Victorian businesses to the world's largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition, Gulfood, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Victorian Government has been supporting companies to attend and participate in Gulfood since the early 2000s. The UAE market represents 30 per cent of Victoria’s food and fibre exports to the region with meat, grain, dairy and processed foods being Victoria’s highest value exports.

Additionally, my travel provided an opportunity to attend a series of meetings and events to strengthen relationships with key stakeholders operating in the region.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

My visit to Gulfood allowed me to provide Victorian businesses with a greater profile and access to key decision makers in-market. Gulfood is an important exhibition for Victoria, with our food and fibre exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) worth $1.1 billion in 2018-19. During my visit I was proud to officially open the Victorian stand on the first day of the event.

The Victorian Government’s ongoing support of Victorian companies is part of its ambitious target to grow global food and fibre exports to $20 billion by 2030.

This includes the launch of Global Table – the largest food and business event ever staged in Victoria which received more than 3000 visitors over the three-day event in 2019.

Global Table is part of the Victorian Government’s $15 million Taste Victoria initiative which is helping Victoria to grow its presence in the global food market and capture future export opportunities.

I also hosted the official Victorian Government business networking event on the first night of Gulfood, which connected Victorian companies with buyers from supermarkets, airlines and distributors operating across the Middle East region. The event was attended by 150 stakeholders and Victoria’s high-quality meat and cheese was promoted. At the event, I spoke about the importance of the Middle Eastern market to Victorian food exporters and took the opportunity to thank everyone across the supply chain, both in Victoria and the UAE, for the hard work they do in getting Victorian products to these markets.

I met with His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, in the Gulfood Exhibition Hall and briefed him about the range of Victorian companies who were participating and showcasing their products on the Victorian stand in the World Food Hall.

My visit leading the Victorian delegation at Gulfood generated significant positive media coverage for Victoria across the region in print (TRENDS Middle East), radio (Dubai Eye) and TV (Abu Dhabi TV) news. As I am a fluent Arabic speaker, I conducted some of these media interviews in Arabic which was warmly received in-market and greatly increased the level of engagement and local media coverage for the delegation.

This year, Gulfood attracted 90,000 attendees from countries across the globe. The Victorian participants made up more than half of the Australian companies exhibiting there. This cemented the global reputation of Victorian producers as exporters and suppliers of some of the world's cleanest, greenest and safest food products. The UAE is Victoria’s most valuable MENA market for merchandise trade. In 2018-19, Victoria’s highest value agricultural exports to the MENA region were meat, grain, dairy and processed food products. Trade shows such as Gulfood enable Victorian food and beverage producers to maintain their strong presence in markets across the MENA region.

Follow up reporting carried out by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR) indicates that two Victorian companies who attended Gulfood 2020 have already signed contracts with local UAE distributors to start exporting their products. One company also received orders for their products from organisations in three countries across the region.

I also attended and supported Victorian companies’ interests at a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) networking event. This is an important stakeholder and enabler of market access opportunities for Victorian companies in the region. Whilst there, I met with Victorian companies who travelled to Gulfood as part of the MLA delegation. MENA continues to grow as an important destination for Victorian red meat exports. Of all meat exported from Australia to MENA, 50 per cent originates from Victoria. There is strong demand for lamb in the region, with Victorian lamb exports growing 42 per cent over the past five years.

As part of my visit, I also met with Australia’s Consul General to Dubai and Austrade General Manager for the Middle East and Africa, and Australia’s new Ambassador to the UAE. We discussed our mutual objectives in-market including market access, Expo 2020 Dubai and the promotion of Victoria as an export partner and premium tourism, education and investment destination. With the Ambassador, I conveyed Victoria’s gratitude for the incredible show of support from the UAE for the recent Australian bushfire crisis.

My visit to Dubai strengthened the significant business and government-to-government relationships Victoria has established with the UAE and supported the ongoing activities of the Victorian Government Trade and Investment (VGTI) office in the region.

Next Steps / Follow Up

The department will follow up with the Victorian companies who participated at Gulfood to ensure they capitalise on export opportunities.

The VGTI office in Dubai will follow up with major buyers, investors, government and business leaders who I met with during the visit, to encourage a strong delegation from the region to visit Victoria. Global Victoria will also capitalise on opportunities created to promote Victoria as an economic partner at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since undertaking this visit to the UAE, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. As we are aware, in consequence to COVID-19, significant business disruption has been experienced globally. The Victorian Government has focussed its effort to ensure that trading relationships between Victoria and the world remain strong and well supported. I am confident that the current trading and logistics difficulties will be overcome. We will work together to ensure we protect our deep and long-standing ties with the MENA region.

Page last updated: 3 July 2020