Prospects for UK agri-food exports: Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

MENA offers significant opportunities for UK exporters, especially for the lamb and dairy sectors, due to the region’s strong population growth, together with limited production capacity, driving food imports higher over the next decade.

Summary of findings

Strong population and gross domestic product (GDP) growth, together with limited production capacity, will increase food import requirements in the MENA region over the next decade.

The region is expected to be the second largest net importer of food by 2031 (after the developed and East Asia regions) and the largest on a per capita basis.

Within MENA, food imports per person are highest in Saudi Arabia and the other Middle Eastern countries, which includes the Gulf region.

The main opportunities for UK exporters are for lamb and dairy in the oil-rich states, which are big net importers of agricultural products.

The countries with the greatest opportunity for beef, lamb and dairy are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Jordan.

However, tariffs are not the main trade barrier in this growing market: it is the halal certification requirements, particularly for beef. In addition, the UK lacks beef Export Health Certificates (EHCs) in the Gulf region due to its historical disease status.

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya have good potential for UK cereal exports. As Morocco holds UK soft wheat in high regard, it can be an important market. However, continuity of supply is a challenge, especially as the UK soft wheat area has recently contracted.

Feed barley demand is relatively strong in these countries. Usually, the UK has a surplus, and there is an opportunity to increase feed barley exports. However, the relative price competitiveness of UK barley, compared with its main competitors (such as the EU), is a key constraint.

Where do the opportunities lie?

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Sarah Baker

Head of Economics - Analysis

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