The Sultanate and Saudi Arabia are leading a fresh wave of investment in the Gulf's aquaculture industry, as increasing regional fish consumption gives investors a huge opportunity to capitalise on the fastest growing food processing sector in the Middle East.
Oman, which has long been at the forefront of aquaculture in the Gulf region, announced that it plans to invest 0.95€ billion in fisheries development up to 2020, whereas the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Agriculture has said it would inject an additional 7.73€ billion into aquaculture projects to produce one million tonnes of fish in the next 16 years
The UAE, which has the world's largest sturgeon fish farm in Abu Dhabi, also has big plans, with the country's Ministry of Environment and Water expected to announce several multi-billion dollar aquaculture projects in the coming months.
It all points to what is now a booming sector across the Middle East, and one which is becoming increasingly popular at AGRA Middle East, the region's only exhibition covering agribusiness; poultry and livestock; fishing and aquaculture; floriculture and horticulture; and agricultural machinery and supplies.
Scheduled to take place from March 25 to 27 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre, AGRA Middle East provides a comprehensive all-in-one platform for exhibitors to showcase their latest innovations to thousands of key regional decision makers.
Though traditionally dominated by suppliers of agriculture, horticulture, and poultry products and services, the three-day event has seen aquaculture related exhibition space more than double in the last year, and its organiser, Informa Exhibitions, expects this trend to rise further.
Richard Pavitt, exhibition director of AGRA Middle East, said: "Aquaculture is the fastest growing food processing industry in the Middle East, with the most recent fisheries' data indicating that farmed fish output across the region has grown five-fold in a ten year period, from 194,000 tonnes in 2002 to 1.1 million tonnes in 2011."
"Given the decline in wild catches, this trend is likely to continue, and with 10kg per capita of fish consumption among all Arab countries, experts predict that supply must increase 20 per cent to maintain the region's current levels of consumption.
"Up to 30 per cent of seafood provisions in the Middle East already come from aquaculture sources, and investors are now turning their attention toward the likes of Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and oil-rich markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia."
AGRA Middle East
That will come as good news to the dozens of international aquaculture players exhibiting at AGRA Middle East this year, including the Malta-based AquaBioTech Group, which will showcase its latest innovations in on-shore and off-shore aquaculture technologies.
"Participating at the AGRA Middle East gives us a great opportunity to meet existing and future partners," said Shane Hunter, technical director at AquaBioTech Group. "The event has grown a lot in the last few years and attracts industry stakeholders in the Middle East and beyond.
"Last year, we had visitors from Kazakhstan, Russia, Romania, Nigeria, Canada, and all the Middle East countries, and we hope to see more companies investing state-of-the-art Recirculating Aquaculture System technologies."
Now in its eighth edition, AGRA Middle East 2014 has grown by 26 per cent year-on-year in exhibitor numbers, attracting 220 major players looking to meet an audience of key decision makers with a combined purchasing power in excess of 87.47€ million.
The three-day event returns with two dedicated industry conferences; the Agribusiness Outlook Forum, addressing the key issues surrounding the mounting food.