Taking Malaysian Fruits And Agricultural Products To The Arab World

Last update: 29/01/2015

From Melati Mohd Ariff


Bernama's writer Melati Mohd Ariff was in Dubai recently and was impressed with the array of fruits from all over the world available in the hypermarkets there. As not much Malaysian fruits were available, the writer inquired with a Malaysian official there on the efforts to promote Malaysian fruits in the Middle east.


DUBAI (Bernama) -- "This is star fruit. And that is a mango."

This is the conversation between an Arab man in long sleeved white robes and a women dressed in black abaya that I overheard while at the fruit section of a leading hypermarket in Dubai, U.A.E.

Could the star fruit be from Malaysia where the fruit is available in abundance, I thought to myself but much to my disappointment it was from South Africa.

I was recently in Dubai, a Highly developed trading hub for UAE and the entry and transit point to many parts of the Arab world.

The fruit section provides an impressive selection of fruits from all over the world including the mangoesteen, rambutan, bananas, mangoes and even the king of fruits the durian like available in Malaysia.

However, a closer look at the labels indicate that most of these fruits that I thought came from Malaysia actually originated from Thailand, the Philippines, India and Indonesia.

Having said that in another supermarket, I finally came across the star fruit from Malaysia, green in colour and sold at AED36.50 (about RM32) per kilo.


THE AGRO BAZAAR

Still I was sad to note that many of the Malaysian fruits have yet to make their way here. Dubai has a big market for exotic fruits.

"Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wanted us to establish an agrobazar in Dubai and we have been working on this," said Shahid Abu Bakar, the Consul (Agriculture) at the agriculture section of the Malaysian Consulate-General in Dubai, to Bernama.

If this is realised, the Dubai agrobazar will be the second one after the first opened in Singapore. The bazaar in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry while the one in Dubai will be managed by entrepreneurs.

"There are many things that we have to look into. In Singapore we are renting shophouses while in Dubai we may open the bazaar at a shopping complex," he said.


BASED ON THREE CONCEPTS

The agrobazar is based on three concepts - retail, fruits and restaurants. There is a good market for Malaysian agricultural and food products yet we have to identify the right product to be promoted.

"We also see Dubai as the springboard to penetrate the Middle East market. Everything starts here," said Shahid who took over as the agriculture consul effective 6 Dec 2014.

According to Shahid, his role here is to obtain trade access for Malaysian agricultural products.

"The ministry wants to see more agricultural and agricultural based products marketed overseas.

"Previously we promoted Malaysian products during events and programmes. So far we have not dedicated a place to sell our fruits," he explained.


FACT FINDING MISSION

Since coming to Dubai, Shahid has been surveying the hypermarkets and markets to see for himself the fruits available there and the potential of Malaysian fruits.

"I find that our fruits are equally good in quality, shape, size and taste compared with the fruits sold here.

"I have bought mangoes from Australia, costing AED27 a kilo (RM23.00). The fruit looks big and beautiful but pales in comparison with Malaysia's Harum Manis and Chokanan mangoes that only costs RM22 per kilo and RM8 per kilo respectively," said Shahid.

He also related to me on the potential of other Malaysian fruits in Dubai like the star fruit, water melon and guava.

"Only the Malaysian pineapple has established its presence in Dubai with an annual sales figure of up to RM3.9 million.

"Even for the other Malaysian fruits, we have the upper hand but the price may not be competitive. To ensure their freshness, these fruits have to be sent through air freight that is costly," explained Shahid.

In this respect, his side has been in negotiation with Malaysia Airlines representatives in Dubai and importers to work out ways on how MAS could facilitate in transporting Malaysian fruits to Dubai and the Arab region.

"The airline's representative in Dubai have explained to us that the air freight charges are competitive enough but the ground handling charges have to be looked into further."


MALAYSIAN FRUIT FIESTA

Shahid related to Bernama that to promote Malaysian fruits in Dubai, a Malaysian Fruit Fiesta is being planned.

"We want to bring in seasonal and non-seasonal fruits. We are now looking for a suitable time to hold this fiesta and have already started talking to the Federal Marketing Authority (Fama).

"When there is a fruit glut in Malaysia, we can bring the excess fruits here," he said.

As for the proposed fruit fiesta, Malaysian chefs in Dubai will be enlisted to demonstrate the diverse use of these fruits and products from entrepreneurs.

Shahid said during his rounds at the hypermarkets in Dubai, he observed that the locals spend a considerable sum in buying imported fruits.

"They have good buying power, only that they are not exposed to fruits from Malaysia," he said.


IDENTIFYING THE POTENTIAL

The agriculture consul also noted that several Malaysian restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been identified to promote Malaysian fruits and products.

"Frozen food like samosa, pratha, curry puffs have good potential. We can even promote the instant noodle," he said adding that among the brand names that can be promoted is the Agromas.

"Agromas is a premium product. Only products that have achieved certain quality standards can take on the Agromas brand name," he said.

He is also hoping on the 5,000 Malaysians working and living in U.A.E will lend a helping hand in promoting the Malaysian fruits and products there.


MALAYSIAN ENTREPRENEUR

The biggest food programme in Dubai is the Gulfood, that takes place every February.

"Matrade allocates several booths for Fama and we bring in entrepreneurs with potential to participate in Gulfood.

"The products on display other than fresh fruits are processed products and frozen food," said Shahid adding that Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry also holds its annual event in Dubai - Agriculture, Marketing and Investment Mission (AMIM) - since 2012.

Malaysia's food product export to the UAE in 2013 was worth RM390 million and in the first six months of 2014 the figure was RM295 million.

-- BERNAMA