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Middle East: Savvy consumers on sustainable seafood, SEAFEX

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Seafood consumers throughout the Middle East and North Africa are increasingly turning to sustainable sources as the need to conserve stocks internationally begins to hit home.

This trend will be highlighted at SEAFEX, the region’s first professional seafood show, which runs at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 7-9 November, 2016.

Regional diners are becoming more socially-conscious and demand products for changing lifestyle preferences, say 145 exhibitors from 25 nations.

“People right now are more driven towards fresh seafood than ever,” said Abbas Muntaser, marketing executive at European Seafood, which specializes in live seafood and live aquaculture raised fish.

“This is not just because of its many beneficial effects on human health, but also as a source of sustainable food that can last for generations to come and provide for better lifestyles.”

In its first official SEAFEX appearance, Enterprise Mauritius, the national trade promotion organization of the Republic of Mauritius, will be part of the 13 national and industry pavilions at SEAFEX, which also sees first-time official participation from the Philippines.

Mauritius says its show debut will help position the country as “a favorable destination for sustainable aquaculture and higher value-added seafood processing”.

Seafood processing is now the second most important manufacturing sector in Mauritius, employing 12,000 people and contributing 1.5% to overall gross domestic product.

Last year the country exported €337 million (US$ 367.016 million) worth of seafood that represented 16% of its overall domestic exports, according to CEO Arvind Radhakrishna.

“As a specialized sub-sector of the seafood industry, sustainable aquaculture ranks high on the Mauritian Government’s agenda and around 22 sites have been earmarked around the island for the setting-up of in-lagoon fish breeding,” he says.

“Farming of high-value and niche products such as cobia, sea cucumber, oyster and oyster pearls, crabs, sea-urchins and other shellfish are being encouraged.”

Meanwhile, Siblou from Lebanon says consumers are not only more socially-conscious, they are increasingly health conscious – factors pushing up demand for seafood.

“Over the past year we are seeing that consumers are seeking healthy, clean, and a diversified diet; food with real ingredients,” said MD Camil Ishak.

“The modern consumers want food that is natural and convenient at the same time. Additionally, they want food that contains a healthy dose of nutritional fat – consumers are now aware that they need to know where their food is coming from, where it is sourced and produced, and the need to trust what they are consuming.”

SEAFEX is among a trio of conveniently segmented food events which also include the gourmet Specialty Food Festival and Yummex Middle East, the region’s leading international trade fair for the confectionery and snacks market.

They are co-located alongside Gulfood Manufacturing – the Middle East’s biggest food manufacturing, processing, packaging, logistics and materials handling exhibition – which attracts more than 30,000 attendees looking to allocate their annual, back-end food and beverage budgets.