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Key export markets in the Gulf States




Gulf Cooperation Council countries are marching into the future. With main rendezvous as the 2022 FIFA World Cup organized by Qatar or the 2020 World expo that will be held in Dubai, it is time for European SMEs to turn to those promising markets. But which are the principal export sectors? European Union’s “trademark” is often a guarantee of quality and expertise on the international stage, GCC countries are aware of that and have the means to beneficiate from its high standard products. Agribusiness and food industry, medical and paramedical sectors, fashion and textile, to name but a few, are and shall remain to be most successful markets over the coming years.

GCC states heavily depend upon their trading partners for food supply due to difficult weather conditions and scarce water resources. Thus, Qatar imports more than 90% of its food consumption and the same holds for Bahrain. As for the United Arab Emirates and also Kuwait, this rate hovers about 80% and 70% for the Sultanate of Oman and Saudi Arabia[1]. A major population growth along with a heightened purchasing power and a certain Westernization of the consumption habits are indicators of an ever-escalating demand for European goods.

Social and more particularly healthcare spending is increasing in the GCC states and here again, In the UAE, medical tourism is steadily growing and weights more than one billion dollars per year. Saudi Arabia is also in the running as its government has announced the wish for a substantial increase of the number of available beds.

Concerning the fashion industry, the Gulf States are a main market with a young population and 55% of the citizens under thirty. Thus in the GCC countries, the average expenditures on clothes and accessories are about 1300 dollars per month with 700 dollars spent in ready-made clothing and 300 dollars in shoes[2]. Compared to European figures, those amounts appear to be extremely high. For example, English consumers expends reach only about 135 dollars per month[3].


[1] The Economist, “How to keep stomachs full”, 22/02/14

[2] Chalhoub Group, Consumer Research, 2009–2011

[3] English Office for National Statistics, 2010


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