The price of meat imported to the UAE from Australia has increased only marginally despite steep rises in the cost of other foods.
"Prices of meat coming from our country have been relatively stable," Don Heatley, Chairman of the producers' group Meat and Livestock Australia, told Emirates Business.
"However it all comes down to the basic question of supply and demand and since the economies of the Gulf countries are booming, demand is rising steadily. "Population is growing in the region and in a country like Saudi Arabia we can expect it to double in the next 10 years.
"Prices can also vary because of differences in specifications such as weight ranges, freight costs and strong demand from other markets such as Asia and Europe," said Heatley.
The Middle East is the most important market for Australian meat and has been growing rapidly. Meat exports to the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) in the year ended April 2008 amounted to Dh981 million while live exports were worth Dh1.1 billion.
"Lamb exports to Mena for the year ended April 2008 reached 7,552 tonnes and the UAE market was the largest for lamb in the Middle East and the second largest in the world," said Heatley.
"Mutton exports exported to the Mena in the same period reached 22,158 tonnes with Saudi Arabia being the largest market and the UAE growing rapidly," he said.
Heatley does not believe demand for meat has fallen as more people become vegetarian. "There are trends and opinions but in reality the consumption of red meat is growing worldwide.
"The good news for consumers is that Australian lamb – and mutton and beef – is produced in a clean, natural environment from healthy animals and is available all year round.
"Australian meat processing is conducted according to world-leading food safety programmes and mandatory product traceability. Halal slaughtering is of the highest integrity and is supervised by authorised Islamic organisations and protected by government regulation."