Eurofruit Congress Middle East 2012 took place last week at Dubai's Shangri-La Hotel, shining a spotlight on the future of the Gulf market.
James Fallon of Control Risks kicked off proceedings, delivering a presentation on the risks associated with doing business in the region, and the lessons to be learnt from the Arab Spring.
This was followed by a panel session on the future of the Middle East, with Hani Ayloush of Dubai-based Fruit Line Trading stressing the market's recovery from the crisis-induced slump, and the impact of the recent disturbances in the region.
"Regarding the problems in Syria and Lebanon, Dubai is benefiting," he said, "as investors are looking to safer places like here."
Kamal Shakir of Royal Fruit Trading, also based in Dubai, noted the increase in quality standards occurring in the region. "We know that we must raise our quality in order to continue satisfying our customers," he said.
Tia Borcharding, whose D-Quality Survey provides quality checks for companies in the UAE and is set to open up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in 2013, suggested that the reputation of the Gulf was set to change.
"The Middle East was known as a market for produce that wasn't accepted elsewhere," she said. "This is not happening anymore. Quality is improving at such a pace that there is a danger the quantity won't be there. We are trying to educate suppliers to improve quality so that volumes will be sufficient for the market."
Erik Cotman of Belgian technology company Intelleflex said that the quality now demanded in the region meant a need for innovation. "Fruit is coming here from all over the world, and logistically this market is very challenging," he said. "People are asking how technology can be used to improve things."
The third session of the congress saw the attention turned to three overseas suppliers, Vietnam, Chile and Italy, while the final session focused on innovations.
Virginie de Beco introduced Fresh Del Monte's latest product and distribution ventures, Christian Zeidler looked at the importance of health initiatives, including kids TV programme LazyTown, and Mariana De Nadai spoke about the need for traditional values in a successful fresh produce company.
A full review of the congress will appear in the February issue of Eurofruit Magazine.