The Covid-19 pandemic negatively impacted the poultry industry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but there are signs of stability and recovery.
Poultry production in the UAE relies on immigrant labour, and the sector was disrupted early in 2020 as travel bans were imposed. Toward the end of 2020, producers benefitted from an increase in demand, which was driven by the lockdown and families remaining home. The primary focus of the UAE throughout 2020 was to stabilise the supply chain of fresh meat and eggs due to the constant challenges of Covid-19, the Gulf News reports CEO of Al Ain Farms, Willem van Walt Meijer, as saying. He added that the focus is to then ensure long-term UAE food security by increasing volumes and supply of locally produced products, leading to higher self-sufficiency.
UAE chicken producers differentiate their products from imports by marketing them as ‘fresh’. This niche market segment continues to grow. Photo: Timolina
A 12% increase in production in 2021
In 2021, poultry production in the UAE will be 56,000 mt, which is a 12% increase from the 2020 estimate, a USDA GAINS report forecasts. This is due to higher demand for locally produced chicken meat products and increasing government support. “At the moment, the poultry industry is focused on producing healthier chicken by improving feed and living conditions for livestock. On the external front, the industry battles high competition for imported products, especially from countries where the price of production is lower,” the publication reports Jeanette Kristensen Alhaider, GM of Al Rawdah, as saying. Brazil and the US continue to dominate the market, supplying 65% and 17%, respectively.
The import of frozen meats continues to dominate the larger portion of the meat and chicken sector, and the onset of the pandemic brought on many fears in this regard. However, Meijer noted that a positive shift was seen in the sector in consumer demand for locally produced fresh chicken and eggs. This also accelerated the awareness and the need for improved food security for the country and less of a reliance on imports. Some bigger restaurants now prefer to deal with local producers rather than import chicken. This has presented an opportunity for growth.
UAE ‘Fresh Chicken’
Over the last half-decade, the USDA report notes, Emirati producers have differentiated their products from imports by marketing them as ‘fresh’. This niche market segment continues to grow, and many high-end grocery stores, hypermarkets, and online food apps now carry UAE chicken meat products labeled as ‘fresh chicken’.