Irish exports to Arab countries surpassed €688m in Q1

Irish exports to Middle East and North Africa are on the rise, an opportunity that Irish SMEs would be wise to capture, urges the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce.

Irish exports to the Arab world continued to rise for the majority of Middle Eastern countries for the first quarter of 2023, following a record year of exports to the region in 2022.

The latest figures from the CSO show that Ireland exported €688m worth of Irish goods in the first three months of the year to the Arab world. According to Bord Bia, there has been 15% growth in food and drink exports to the Middle East for Q1 2023 (compared with Q1 2022).

“Irish businesses should strongly consider exporting to the region … SMEs looking to export will have excellent resources at hand to assist them with exporting their goods”

Food and drinks exports totalled €86.7m in just three months. There were considerable increases in exports of Irish goods to countries including Algeria (+153%), Lebanon (+76%), Qatar (+97%), Syria Arab Republic (+77%) and Yemen (73%).

Eastern promise

Saudi Arabia has a population of 36.39m. Irish exports to Saudi Arabia were up by 21% in the first three months of 2023 and the country remains the largest importer of Irish goods out of all the Arab states.

Almost €235m in goods were exported to Saudi Arabia from Ireland in January -March 2023 compared to just under €195m during the same period last year. Essential oils, perfume materials and toilet preparations; medical and pharmaceutical products and inorganic chemicals were the most popular exports to Saudi Arabia in Q1 of 2023.

With a population of 46m, Algeria is another major importer of Irish goods. The main goods Ireland exports to Algeria are dairy products and bird eggs. Algeria also imports a large amount of medical and pharmaceutical goods, essential oils, perfume materials, toilet and cleansing preparations. Exports to Algeria increased by 153% in the first quarter of this year with €26,519,000 worth of goods exported from Ireland to the country.

Qatar had a notable increase in imports from Ireland in the first quarter of 2023. Exports increased by 97% in January to March alone. The top performing categories in Qatar were power generating machinery and equipment, essential oils, perfume materials, toilet & cleansing preparations and pharmaceutical goods.

Irish SMEs looking to export goods or services to foreign countries should consider the Arab world.

“Irish businesses should strongly consider exporting to the region,” said Ahmad Younis, CEO of the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce. “Not only will exporting help diversify a business’ customer base and increase sales but Arab countries are willing to pay competitive prices for their imports. SMEs looking to export will have excellent resources at hand to assist them with exporting their goods.”

The region of 22 Arab states has a growing population of more than 456m people which is 5% of the world’s population. The population of the region is growing rapidly and is forecast to exceed 500m, 6% of the global population, by 2028.

What makes the Arab World an attractive prospect?

Aside from continuous notable increases in exports to the region, The Department of Foreign Affairs, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA work with Irish businesses on a daily basis to help facilitate business opportunities in the Middle East and surrounding countries. This is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs Government’s Trade and Investment Strategy 2022-2026.

“There are endless opportunities for Irish businesses who want to enter a diverse and rapidly growing export market,” Younis said.

“The Arab world specifically has increased demand for Irish produce with a growing number of Irish expats living in these countries. As well as this, the Middle East have made multiple large-scale investments in recent infrastructure improvements to boost their economy.”

He said Ireland is known for its high-quality agricultural produce so it’s no wonder that dairy and meats consistently remain among the most in-demand export products. As well as this, Ireland exports a majority of medical and technological products to foreign states.

Younis shared advice for those interested in exporting to the Arab market

“The Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce is here to help and offer advice to any Irish business looking to export to new markets. We also strongly recommend attending the upcoming Arab Irish business forum in September, the leading event for business leaders looking for new exporting opportunities in the Middle East and Gulf states.

“This important conference will provide expert analysis, insight and advice regardless of whether you are already doing business there or are considering future opportunities. We will also have real life success stories of Irish businesses who recently began exporting to the region, including the steps they took to get there and the difference it has made to help scale their businesses.”