The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed phytosanitary access for Chilean honey products, which means that Chilean honey may freely enter its market, which is the 32nd largest in the world based on the volume of its GDP (over US$698 billion).
Over 80% of the population of the UAE is Muslim. Honey is one of the few food products mentioned in the Koran: “honey is a remedy for every sickness; the Koran is a remedy for every illness of the mind.” Thus, honey is a popular product year-round with significantly increased consumption during religious festivals, particularly as a high-calorie food in the breaking of Ramadan fasts.
However, local production is limited. The UAE gets most of its honey from Saudi Arabia, Germany and India. These markets represent 59.2% of honey imports, which total US$23.4 million and 3,788 tons (2015). Over the past five years, the volume of honey imports has increased by 17%, which means that the UAE offers a very good trade opportunities for reducing the concentration of Chilean honey exports, 75% of which go to Germany and France.
Chilean honey’s primary competitor is from Yemen—sold through Saudi Arabia—because of its roots in Arab culture. Yemen produces high quality honey with approximately 50 varieties in the market.
The UAE currently has a 5% tariff on all processed food products, including fragmented packaged honey. However, bulk agricultural items and semi-processed food items are exempt.
ProChile’s Trade Attaché in Dubai, Sharif Chacoff, explains that while residents of the region consume a great deal of honey, they are not very familiar with the product. They therefore choose the same or similar products: liquid or creamy (never hard), light or dark but always transparent and honey that has a strong flavor and limited duration in the mouth. These characteristics are currently found in honey from Yemen, Russia or Kazakhstan.
He adds that importers, on the other hand, are looking for honey with innovative packaging and a high level of differentiation. In this case, Chilean honey has the advantages in terms of organoleptic qualities (flavor, consistency and color). Importers are also open to trying flavored blends, and Chile may have advantages there as well, offering options such as honey with maqui, merquén or honey from native trees. Importers are also interested in derivatives focused mainly on health products such as royal jelly, pollen shots and propolis gum. They are constantly seeking out providers that offer them some level of differentiation from the competition. As such, there are clear business opportunities for innovative honey products with premium packaging and competitive pricing.
“The trend towards organic consumption in the Emirates offers niche opportunities for Chilean exporters, where national production increased 192% in 2016. Finally, Chile has an important advantage for bulk honey in terms of value and can compete with the countries that are currently exporting to the UAE,” Chacoff explains.
Chile’s trade representative in the UAE adds that the best advice for Chilean business owners who wish to do business in this market is to be present. “It is important to come and visit the main food fairs or meet with importers. Remote efforts are generally unsuccessful.”
He added that, “UAE is one of the best honey exportation markets because of the buying power, sensitivity to the middle/low consumer prices and high appreciation for top quality products.”
Chile exported US$21.1 million worth of honey in 2016. The main destinations for the product were Germany, France and Switzerland.
Key Activities and Specialized Fairs for Honey
SIAL Middle East. International food fair. December 12-14, 2017 www.sialme.com
Gulfood, the largest food fair in the Middle East. February 18-22, 2018. Chile will participate with a delegation of over 20 companies from various food and agriculture sectors. www.gulfood.com.
Specialty Food Festival, a fair specializing in the promotion of products with added value. September 16-18, 2018. www.speciality.ae.
Yummex, a fair specializing in snacks and sweets. September 16-18, 2018. www.yummex-me.com