Gulfood 2021 food exhibition in Dubai World Trade Center. © UNDP Afghanistan / CBARD-AIM / 2021

From February 21-25, 2021, Dubai World Trade Center hosted Gulfood 2021, the world's largest food exhibition held every year which encompasses a total area of 1 million square feet (roughly 10 hectares) of exhibition space. UNDP's CBARD-AIM sponsored a delegation consisting of two Afghan exhibitors along with four additional Afghan traders as observers, one of which was a woman-owned business.

Gulfood 2021 offered a unique opportunity to sign contracts with international importers. Delegation exhibitors displayed product samples and conducted business to business (B2B) meetings with potential buyers. At times, this required engaging in lucrative, yet aggressive, negotiations.

“Participation in Gulfood-2021 was my first international experience, which played the role of a connector between us and international markets. Gulfood inspires us to work on the quality standards of our products.” - Akbar Hotak

During the five-day exhibition, the two CBARD-AIM exhibitors negotiated deals with buyers from Saudi Arabia, UAE, India, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria. This resulted in 25 confirmed deals totaling 1,050MT, with a sales value of USD $2.51 million for raisins, almonds, pistachios, watermelon seed, and cumin produced in CBARD-AIM supported districts.

Shortly after the Gulfood exhibition, the CBARD-AIM team arranged for a market visit to Al Ras wholesale market and also to Carrefour and Lo Lo, the two largest retail supermarket chains in Dubai. These visits allowed the delegation to observe the types of products sold, as well as their packaging, labelling and display at their final point of sale to the consumer.

“Right after the Gulfood 2021, we exported 83 MTs which include 48 MTs of soaproots and 35MTs raisins, with an estimated value of $250,000 to the United Arab Emirates.” said Javid Rasouli of the Zmarai Rasouli Ltd “It is a huge achievement for us.”

Gulfood 2021 provided an excellent platform for advertising the positive qualities of Afghan produce for the international food and beverage community, with successful connections established with key buyers interested in Afghanistan’s fresh and dried fruits, nuts, spices and fresh vegetable products. Sales data now provides strategic guidance to CBARD-AIM on identifying high-value products to target for specific export markets. CBARD-AIM’s sponsorship is intended for clients to gain firsthand experience on food quality and safety standards required to compete in lucrative international export markets.

Gulfood 2021 was CBARD-AIM’s second sponsorship of program clients to the exhibition and resulted from a collaboration with several USAID funded projects including Agriculture Marketing Program (AMP), Regional Agricultural Development Program East (RADP-E), and Afghanistan Value Chain Crop and Livestock (AVC-Crop & Livestock).

In its 26th year, Gulfood remains the largest food and beverage industry trade event globally. It brings together the full circle of industry sectors: food & drink, beverages, food-related equipment, restaurant & café, food service and hospitality. Gulfood 2021 was organized in collaboration with several USAID-funded programs: DAI’s Regional Agricultural Development Programs East & North (RADP-E & RADP-N), Promoting Value Chain West (PVCW), and Afghanistan Value Chain Crop Livestock (AVC-Crop & Livestock). The five-day tradeshow generated a total of $1.1 million in signed contracts and an additional $1.5 million in potential deals for these two exhibitors.

The CBARD-AIM is funded by the United States Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and is implemented by UN Development Programme through Roots of Peace under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). The project links client farmers and agribusinesses in Nangarhar, Farah and Badghis provinces to national and international markets. The project seeks to provide alternative high-value licit crops to deter the cultivation of poppy in target provinces.

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