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United Arab Emirates shows promise for U.S. Agricultural Exports according to USDA

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of USDA sponsors international trade missions (to as many as six countries per year), opening doors for U.S. exporters and giving them the opportunity to forge relationships with potential customers, gather market intelligence, and generate sales in foreign markets. Since the pandemic, all trade missions have been canceled or postponed. Last week (February 15, 2022), FAS launched its first trade mission since November 2019 to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). The delegation to the U.A.E. included nearly 40 representatives from agribusinesses, farm organizations, and state departments of agriculture interested in exploring export opportunities across the Middle East. Both the FAS Administrator, Daniel Whitley, and Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack were a part of the delegation kicking off the first USDA trade mission in over two years.

With annual agricultural exports averaging more than $1.2 billion during the last five years, the U.S. is the UAE’s fourth-largest supplier of food and farm products and is poised for further export growth according to USDA. How important is the U.A.E. to U.S. exports, particularly exports from the South? In 2021, agricultural exports from the Southern region to the U.A.E. were $357 million, which was an increase of nearly 50% when compared to the previous year (Table 1). Although this is relatively low when compared to countries like China (China purchased $15 billion in agricultural exports from the U.S. South in 2021), the U.A.E. was the South’s 41st largest market out of more than 200 countries (USDA-FAS, 2022). Interestingly, the South’s leading agricultural export to the U.A.E. in 2021 was distilled spirits ($74 million), mostly due to exports of spirits from distilled grapes (e.g., brandy) from Texas and whiskey from Tennessee. Other leading exports in 2021 included poultry products ($47 million), soups and other prepared foods ($26 million), corn ($24 million), and dairy products ($ 24 million). See Figure 1 for the top-15 exports from the U.S. South to the U.A.E. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) (2022). Global Agricultural Trade System.

Table 1. U.S. and Regional Agricultural Exports to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E): 2019-2021

201920202021% Growth(2021-20)
 Export Value ($ million)
United States$1,309$970$1,20123.8%
Note: The values in the table include related products like forestry and seafood, which are less than 5% of total exports.
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Global Agricultural Trade System (2021) 

Figure 1. Top-15 Exports from the Southern U.S. to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E): 2021 

Note: The top-15 exports were valued at $312 million in 2021, accounting for 87% of total agricultural exports from the U.S. South to U.A.E. The Southern U.S. includes the following: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Source: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Global Agricultural Trade System (2021)

Muhammad, Andrew. “United Arab Emirates Shows Promise for U.S. Agricultural Exports According to USDA“. Southern Ag Today 2(9.4). February 24, 2022. Permalink

Professor and Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture