HASSAD Australia strategy, planning and executive projects manager Mark Barber believes significant market potential exists for Australian agricultural exports into the Gulf States.
In an address to the ABARES Regional Outlook conference in Albany last week, Mr Barber said there had been a lot of discussions around the Asian market potential, but Qatar, a country within the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), was equally important as a very large and wealthy market that offered significant export opportunities.
Hassad Australia is an agriculture company operating sheep and grain enterprises across Australia and was established in 2009 as the Hassad Food Company's first overseas investment.
Hassad Food Company (HFC) was established in 2008 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Qatar Holdings, which is one of the operating arms of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Qatar.
Located in the Middle East, the population of the GCC is roughly 42 million and is growing at about four per cent annually.
"GDP growth is rising by 4-5pc annually, largely around petroleum, but there is a large emphasis on diversifying their economies and using those huge resource dollars to diversify... and there is strong growth coming out of those other sectors," Mr Barber said.
"It is still dominated by petroleum and hydrocarbons but there is still very strong growth in that region."
Mr Barber said although the GCC was already a big importer of Australian sheepmeat products, there were real opportunities for value adding.
"With rising wealth we are seeing a pretty significant rise in red meat consumption in excess of 5pc a year," he said.
Because the GCC is a trading block, Mr Barber said if done correctly, access to one market could facilitate access to a range of countries in that region.
"The change in these markets are quite profound, disposable income is rising enormously and in the food catering market expenditure there is rising at staggering rates," he said.
"Consumption of cereal grains and foodstuffs is growing quite dramatically and very comparatively with the Asian market.
"It's not on the same scale as the Asian markets, but given the relative scale of the Australian production to Asian markets and the relative scale of production in the Middle Eastern market it still represents a very significant opportunity."
Mr Barber said Growth Domestic Production per capita in Qatar was about $US100,000 ($107,560).
"So there is staggering wealth," he said.
"The big difference in this market is that its 90pc reliant on imports of food.
"There is no real prospect of being self-sufficient in any of the commodities we are talking about."
Mr Barber said natural resources that were available to produce food were limited, with only 1pc of Qatar arable.
"As an Australian company invested heavily in agriculture in Australia with a parent company with strong links to the Middle East we see significant opportunities for Hassad to market our products back into that country and add quite a bit of value along the way," he said.