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  • Provenance key in UAE market, says Dibba Bay Aquaculture Pioneer as international exhibitors highlight how consumer demand for traceability is driving new opportunities

Having made their way onto the menus of some of Dubai’s most celebrated restaurants, oysters grown in the UAE are on-track to becoming a sought-after seafood choice in the Emirates’ leading retail outlets.

The country’s only oyster producer, Fujairah-based East Coast Shellfish – the name behind the increasingly acclaimed Dibba Bay Oysters – is looking to expand into the UAE retail sector with founder Ramie Murray believing the breakthrough is at hand.

Having inked a 30-store partnership with Spinney’s, the UAE supermarket giant, Murray has now turned his attentions to SEAFEX, the only professional seafood event for the Middle East, Africa and Asia, which runs at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 30 October – 1 November.

Despite being just two-and-half-years old, East Coast Shellfish – which runs the Middle East’s only shellfish farm and began supplying oysters to UAE-based hotels and restaurants a year ago – Dibba Bay is poised to go head-to-head with global producers, according to Murray, who cites the homegrown producer’s capacity to readily respond to increasing consumer demand for food provenance.

Paving the way for provenance

“Consumers are now becoming much more aware of the provenance of their food and, being a local company, they can rest easy knowing where their oysters have come from. There’s a big ‘eat local’ movement in the UAE now and it’s something Dibba Bay is capitalise on,” explained Murray.

“For instance, Tuesday is our delivery day and if you go to a restaurant in Dubai on a Tuesday evening and Dibba Bay Oysters are on the menus, you know they have come out of the ocean probably five hours before. You just don’t get that level of freshness with any other oyster product, it’s simply not possible.”

Having pioneered shellfish aquaculture in the UAE, Murray believes SEAFEX provides a valuable networking and learning platform for a sector he believes holds out enormous opportunity in the Gulf.

“SEAFEX is very important to me because it allows me to see what is going on in the market. Everybody is there, all the international and local players; we get to network, find the trends and what is going on in the global industry. This learning is important because the seafood market in the UAE is very buoyant. Consumers here account for one of the highest levels of per capita seafood consumption in the world. It’s a growth market, with the added importance of provenance, there’s a number of opportunities for locally-grown seafood and it’s something the market is very interested in.”

As the only exhibition of its kind in the region, SEAFEX, according to its organisers DWTC, has the power to prize open new business opportunities across the entire sector’s eco-system.

Quality seafood on show

Nearly 150 exhibitors from 25 countries are due to take part in SEAFEX, which is part of a quartet of specialized food-related events powered by the expansive Gulfood trade show series, with traceability and sustainability high on the menu.

The Norwegian Seafood Council will be presenting ‘Seafood from Norway, alongside Norwegian Seafood exporters at SEAFEX and will showcase how the country is meeting today’s consumer preferences by shining the spotlight on the quality and sustainability of ‘Seafood from Norway’.

“In 2017 we surveyed more than 20,000 people and asked about their preferences and consumption habits for seafood. Food safety and sustainability is the fastest growing driver across the world, particularly in Asia. Traceability and openness are becoming must-haves for seafood producers. Norway is blessed with optimal natural conditions for seafood and we communicate this clearly through our origin mark, Seafood from Norway. Consumers should know they are getting top quality Norwegian seafood when choosing Seafood from Norway,” said Ingelill Jacobsen, of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

“At SEAFEX we will have a joint Norwegian stand, where 12-15 Norwegian exporters will be together with us. They represent the whole range of seafood products from Norway, from salmon and trout, to whitefishes, pelagic species and prawns and shellfish. Norwegian salmon being the most popular export article to UAE and the Middle East. You will find superb quality live giant scallops, blue mussels, prawns and king crab from Norway in the UAE. SEAFEX is an important “seafood meeting point” in the Middle East, drawing people and companies from the whole region.”

Leading French exhibitor Oyster France will also be trumpeting its openness and traceability during the three-day show. Driven by passionate artisanal oyster farmer Jérôme Labéguerie, who has more than 20 years’ experience, Oyster France will showcase its Crassostrea gigas oysters, which have their own

own unique taste and texture due to their location in Hossegor, Arcachon and Brittany in the south of France and how they are grown.

Show Information

SEAFEX is co-located with: The Speciality Food Festival, the gourmet and artisan food event for the Middle East, Africa and Asia which features the Global Date Market; yummex Middle East, the region’s dedicated professional sweets and confectionery event and GulfHost, the complete hospitality equipment sourcing Expo for the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

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