Kerala steals the show at Gulfood 2024 in Dubai

Kerala entrepreneurs look beyond traditional markets as production goes up. Global investors evince keen interest in the state’s food processing sector

| Updated: 29 February, 2024 1:48 pm IST
Kerala showcased its huge potential in the food processing and value-addition sector before global investors and entrepreneurs as Gulfood 2024

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala showcased its huge potential in the food processing and value-addition sector before global investors and entrepreneurs as Gulfood 2024, one of the world’s largest annual food & beverages events, concluded at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The Kerala pavilion that displayed its unique products, including spices and an assortment of ready-to-eat items at the five-day expo drew a steady stream of visitors right from day one. The Kerala delegation to the show, led by the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), included leading entrepreneurs from the state’s burgeoning food industry.

Besides holding an ‘Investor Conclave’ on the sidelines of Gulfood 2024, where senior officials led by Shri Suman Billa, IAS, Principal Secretary (Industries and NORKA), briefed industry leaders from around the world on the state’s core strengths, interactions during the event proved highly promising. Shri Billa stated Kerala had over 140,000 new enterprises that were started in the last fiscal year and by December 31, the number had crossed 200,000. Almost 25% of them are in the food sector and they need to look beyond domestic consumption.

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“If all these enterprises are manufacturing food products, then we need to look up beyond the traditional Kerala market. We need to expand it to other states and other countries, as well,” he added. “We think the first landing point is going to be the UAE. The UAE and Kerala have a very strong traditional commercial relationship and what we wanted to explore is how we can leverage this in the background of the comprehensive economic partnership agreement between India and the UAE.”

The focus of the ‘Investor Conclave’ was Kerala’s potential to emerge as a key player in the global supply chain of value-added food products as well as the food processing and food tech sector, identified as a priority segment with support from the government. Shri Billa presented a detailed overview of the state’s food sector with an impressive infrastructure dedicated to food processing, including five state-of-the-art food processing parks, two mega food parks & upcoming mini food parks.

The state is also home to a spices park, underscoring its rich heritage in spice cultivation. “We made a strong and convincing case before the numerous investors and entrepreneurs, who are keen to seize on the immense opportunities offered by the state reinforced by the government’s pro-active policies. The response has been highly encouraging”, Shri Billa said.

“From easy access to raw materials to a well-established network of manufacturing facilities, the state offers an ecosystem ripe for investment,” Shri S Harikishore, Managing Director, KSIDC and Director, of the Department of Industries & Commerce, said.

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The investor conclave also witnessed the participation of key individuals like HE Shri Sunjay Sudhir, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Mr. Saleh Abdullah Lootah, Chairman, of the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Business group and many others.

Co-exhibitors from the state at the event- Beecraft Honey, Cremberie Yoghurt, Foo Foods, Glenview Tea, Global Natural Food Processing Company, Harrisons Malayalam, Malabar Natural Foods, Manjilas Food Tech, Nasfood Exim, Pavizham Rice, Protech Organo and Veliyath Food Products also interacted with the potential investors.

On the last day, Startup Middle East organised a ‘Meet & Greet Kerala Forum’, at the Startup Infinity Center, Dubai. Shri Suman Billa and Shri S Harikishore, as well as Shri Sameer Kunhu Mohamed, Managing Director, Jaleel Holdings, were special guests at the event. Siby Sudhakaran, the founder of Startup ME, welcomed the gathering. Shri Sabeer MS, CEO of Build Hub, and Shri Muhammed Ameen, founder of Edwin Infotech, also made presentations at the meeting.

Kerala’s food ecosystem has benefited from a series of reforms that are built on the Kerala State Industrial Policy 2023, providing a much-needed impetus to the sunrise sectors. Today, Kerala contributes significantly to India’s agricultural output, accounting for 97% of India’s pepper, 70% of cocoa, and substantial shares in coffee, cashew, coconut, and seafood processing. The state also contributed extensively to the export ecosystem by way of the widely networked seafood processing, Ready-To-Eat and Ready-To-Cook products which are rapidly gaining traction globally.

Kerala also has a robust ecosystem of research and development institutions dedicated to the food sector. Institutions such as the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Central Tuber Crops Research Institute, and Kerala Agricultural University foster innovation and excellence.

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