Italy and UAE have enjoyed significant trade relations over the years. The UAE represent the first export market for Italian exports to the entire Arab world. Italy is the seventh worldwide supplier for UAE and the third at EU level. According to study released by ICE (Dubai Agency), trade between Italy and the UAE have seen a sharp increase from 2011, when Italian exports totalled 4.7 billion Euro, with an increase of 28.5% compared to 2010, while Italian imports have touched 861 million Euro, with a record increase of 91.2%. In 2012, the trend continued to grow with 5.5 billion Euro of Italian exports toward the UAE (+16.7%), and with the achievement – despite a slight decline in Italian imports – of a record of 6.1 billion euro in total trade (+ 9.4%). For 2013 the trend of increasing bilateral trade continued to grow, with a value of Italian exports of 5.5 billion Euro, corresponding to an increase of +0.1% compared to 2012, while the imports showed a peak of 1.3 billion, equivalent to an increase of 100% over the previous year. The total interchange was 6.8 billion equal to an increase of 10.6%.
According to the Ministry of Economy’s figures up until the end of December 2011, there were 92 Italian companies, 390 Italian trade agencies and 4387 Italian trademarks in the UAE. The Free Zones witnessed a noticeable growth in overall trade with Italy (including food trade), increasing from AED 210.5 million in 2009 to AED 373.3 million in 2011, achieving a growth of 77 percent in comparison with 2009 and 22 percent in comparison with 2010, and reaching AED 227 million during the first half of 2012. The total amount of food commodities exported from UAE to Italy also saw an 86 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. The food and beverage export interchange in percentage is: bakery and confectionary (20%), fruit confectionary (10%) chocolate (8%), pasta (4%), diary (5%), coffee (5%) wine (4%), ready to eat meal (4%), soft drink (4%), pet food and meals (25%) others (18%).
In this context, Italy has and will continue to participate in major food exhibitions such as the Gulf Food Exhibition in Dubai. Designed to enhance commercial relationship and economic growth, Gulfood remains the Middle East’s leading and largest food, drink, foodservice and hospitality exhibition held in Dubai on February 8th- 12th. Dubai has long been a major commercial hub for the region of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a leading food importer and re-exporter: imports 90% of its food; 50% of imported food is re-exported through the UAE to surrounding markets. Sales of Italian bakery and confectionery register an increase up to 44 percent year on year to reach 59 million Euro in value. Pasta sector sees a similar story with a growth in sales up to 45 percent, 14.5 million Euro value, according to Federalimentare data.
Italian products are recognized as high-quality products and local consumers are becoming more educated about quality, nutritional value, also Dubai is currently developing its food safety. The demand for food sector continues to grow even in light of the significant expansion of the tourism sector and the high number of new hotels and resorts opened in the UAE in recent years. The catering sector of the country is a lucrative market in terms of returns, and employs over 11,000 catering centres, of which more than 4,000 are in Dubai and 3000 are in Abu Dhabi.