The trip, organised by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), will see delegates from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, United Soybean Board, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Iowa Corn Growers Association/Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Nebraska Corn Board, Montana Beef Council and Merck Animal Health start on their tour at the Gulfood Show, currently taking place in Dubai.
The Middle East region is described as a "stable" trading partner for US beef, representing its fourth-largest market in volume and accounting for 147,696 tonnes, worth US$276.2m. The region includes Egypt, the largest market for US fifth-quarter beef products, and the United Arab Emirates, with demand for higher-value cuts of beef growing 11% to US$54m last year.
Pork is less popular, although USMEF said pork exports to the region had grown by 27% in volume and 50% in value, with sales largely to the UAE.
US beef is not alone in targeting the sector, exhibitors and visitors to Gulfood report. Ahmed Hefni, general manager of the Egyptian Foundation for Import & Export, said: "I am here to try to get more American beef for my customers. All things being equal, US beef is the only choice, of course, because of its high quality. But price is always a consideration."
He said that US products were facing strong competition from countries including Canada, the European Union, Brazil, New Zealand and even India.
Thomas Das, vice-chairman and MD of FANTCO, a Dubai-based importer, said Australian beef was now the primary competitor to the US throughout the region, although it was mainly competing on price rather than quality.
In addition to attending the Gulfood Show, the trade mission will receive briefings on the region from USMEF staff, meet with importers, distributors and retailers in the region, and travel to Europe for briefings on the market potential of the EU region and tours of several meat processing plants and livestock operations.