Home Business Gulfood 2023: UAE consumers could be spending less on food bills as shipping costs drop sharply

Gulfood 2023: UAE consumers could be spending less on food bills as shipping costs drop sharply


Strong dollar/dirham is helping with food import costs, and shipping too has dropped

Dubai: After nearly a year, UAE consumers will start spending less on food bills in the next few weeks as food import prices finally start to slide. This is because shipping costs have been dropping significantly in the last two months and this will soon be reflected on food prices at the consumer level, according to UAE-based food importers and retailers

“Food inflation had peaked – now it’s a time for a drop,” said Dr. Dhananjay Datar, Chairman and Managing Director at Dubai-based Al Adil Trading, which specializes in Indian spices and food. “Freight costs have dropped from $1,150 a TEU to $125 on our sector, and then you have the relatively strong dollar and which makes imports from most sourcing markets much cheaper.

“There’s also a third reason, of lower fuel costs than was the case last year. These cost benefits will pass on to the UAE consumer.”

It’s against this backdrop of expectations that the latest Gulfood trade event opens in Dubai, and which has through the years been one of the most popular industry-specific events in the city.

Sources say there’s always some lag between shipping costs coming down and that being reflected on food prices, whether at the grocery store, hypermarket or even in the restaurant/ordering in bills.

Consumers worldwide have been paying more on their food purchases since March last, after the outbreak of hostilities between Russia-Ukraine. That immediately impacted exports of wheat from Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the commodity. Later on, managed shipments of this staple has been going out from Ukraine ports, cooling down prices to some extent.

But wheat wasn’t the only food essential that saw prices escalate – the rapid increase in shipping costs made sure all were affected.

Even as they began spending more, consumer demand in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf markets did not drop. That’s according to Ghassan Aboud, founder and Chairman, Ghassan Aboud Group, which is expanding its interests in the food space significantly, not least through a dedicated storage and distribution hub in Abu Dhabi. (The Group also owns and operates the Grandiose supermarket chain.)

“Although food prices have dropped from the pandemic peaks, the overall FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) in 2022 (averaged at 143.6 points) remained at all-time high levels,” said Aboud. “Staples like wheat, rice, sugar, and palm oil have consistently risen due to tighter availability and increasing demand.

“With the region being a net importer of food commodities, we have seen a rise in food prices across the GCC, consistent with global trends. But average spending on food commodities has not dropped. “Despite the macroeconomic headwinds, spending even on non-essentials has also grown by double-digits in the UAE and KSA. Overall, there is a positive local sentiment when it comes to the F&B and retail sectors.”

 News Source: Gulfnews

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