DUBAI: Pakistani food entrepreneurs who recently flew to the United Arab Emirates to partake in the Gulfood 2021 exhibition on Thursday described Dubai as a place to get new ideas and find new opportunities.
Sixty Pakistani companies participated in this year's food festival that started on February 21 and ended on Thursday, February 25. It was the 26th edition of the annual exhibition held at the Dubai World Trade Center.
Speaking to Arab News, Ammar Mohsin, a partner at the Lahore-based Rina's Kitchenette, said it was important to study innovations in the restaurant business, especially in the post-Covid world.
"I see Dubai as a place where we get ideas and look for opportunities in terms of restaurant-specific machinery that can be used in Pakistan," he said, adding that import restrictions and heavy taxes imposed by his country made things difficult for businesses like his.
"Restaurants in Pakistan have not been given the status of an industry and things sometimes get hard for us due to heavy taxes and import restrictions on ingredients," he said.
Mohsin also said that he had made several contacts at the exhibition, though he suspected they would not benefit him in the long run.
"We have historically benefited from global vendors for ingredients. If import restrictions are not lifted, however, our work here may not yield us dividends in the long run," he added.
Pakistan's Consul General in Dubai Ahmed Amjad Ali told an audience while inaugurating the Pakistan pavilion earlier this week that the food sector contributed about 20 percent of his country's UAE export.
In a Press statement issued on February 21, he said: "This event will further enhance bilateral trade between two countries and provide a platform to connect with buyers from other countries."
Ali said that after about a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening of Gulfood 2021 was good news for international trade in general and the food industry in particular.
"Keeping in view the COVID-19 situation, [Pakistan's] participation [of 60 companies] is encouraging," he continued, adding that Pakistani food companies were already doing good business with the UAE.
Zain Qureshi, the chief financial officer of a Lahore-based gourmet bakery, Cocotalia, told Arab News the exhibition gave him the opportunity to connect with various retailers needed for his business.
"This is my first visit to the exhibition since our restaurant is just a year old, but it will give a huge boost to our business," he said.
Qureshi noted that the restaurant business had grown in Pakistan, "unlike the rest of the world," during the pandemic.
"We received massive orders and had to put some on hold for weeks," he said. "This is also the reason why I am here, to invest in more ovens for the restaurant."