UAE meat consumption above global average

Consumers ate 18 times more meat per capita than the global average last year, according to a study by the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

ABU DHABI.16th September 2008. SLAUGHTER HOUSE. Slaughtered meat in the dispatch hall ready for distrubution at at the Abu Dhabi slaughter house. Stephen Lock / The National. Story by Essam al Ghalib. *** Local Caption ***  SL-slaughter-021.jpgSL-slaughter-021.jpg
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Consumers in the UAE ate 18 times more meat per capita than the global average last year, according to a study by the Ministry of Foreign Trade. That was despite the fact that meat imports fell by more than 10 per cent because of the effects of the world financial downturn. The value of the UAE's meat and meat product imports reached US$973 million (Dh3.57 billion) last year, 10.2 per cent down on the year before.

The ministry said the decrease was due to the global economic crisis and the fact that meat imports had risen by more than 47 per cent in 2008. Consumers in the UAE spend an average of $420 a month on groceries, most of which goes on meat and poultry, the study showed. High per capita income and a preference for spending a lot on food are credited as the main factors leading to the UAE's above-average meat consumption rate. Other factors, such as the UAE's tourism boom, have also contributed to high spending on meat.

The study called for new sources of meat imports to the UAE to protect against future shortages. "We have noticed that the major exporters of beef such as Australasia and South America have experienced problems with a shortage of livestock," said Saleh Lootah, the managing director of Al Islami Foods in the UAE. To make up for the shortage, the study highlights the importance of increasing imports from Arab and African markets.

It also recommends restructuring the country's import structure to bring it more in line with global norms. The UAE, like many other countries, imports much of its meat from the US and Australia. But India, New Zealand and Brazil also supply almost half of its imports. The study emphasises the importance of reducing that reliance on imports and increasing local meat production by assisting research and scientific studies on raising livestock, especially in creating new breeds, and improving veterinary supplies.

"Although 2009 was a tough year for most industries we have already felt things pick up in 2010 and we are confident because there are no signs of this slowing," said Mr Lootah.