DUBAI –Touted as the Middle East’s largest food and beverage industry tradeshow, Gulfood 2010 recently took place in Dubai. “Bigger, Better, Business”, this year’s theme, was particularly applicable to U.S. beef as a record 18 suppliers exhibited products. The tradeshow was billed as the largest exhibition in this event’s 23-year history, with more than 45,000 industry professionals expected to be in attendance over four days (Feb. 21-24).

For many years, the Middle East has been a mainstay for U.S. beef variety meat, but interest in U.S. muscle cuts is building – especially in Egypt. In 2009, beef muscle-cut exports to Egypt increased by more than 600% in volume (to 14,277 metric tons or 31.48 million lbs.) and nearly 500% in value (to $23.5 million) over the previous year, according to the Beef Checkoff.

Muscle-cut exports doubled in volume and increased by nearly one-third in value over 2008 for the region as a whole. Despite a sluggish global market for variety meat, combined U.S. beef/beef variety meat exports to the Middle East achieved 7% growth in volume in 2009 while remaining steady in value.

“Beef supplies from South America are becoming more restricted and their prices – especially Brazil’s – have recently been on the rise,” said John Brook, U.S. Meat Export Federation regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “So, we’re seeing increasing opportunities for U.S. rounds and even a growing demand for forequarter cuts.”

In the United Arab Emirates, the food industry does not appear to be overly shaken by recent concerns raised about the financial condition of Dubai World, the country’s enormous construction consortium, Mr. Brook added.

“Retailers and restaurants are very optimistic that this year will bring significant growth when compared to 2009,” he said. “Some individual suppliers are predicting their business in the region could grow by as much as 20%.”