Gulfood Food Fair is a fair organized by the Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC) every year and only for food professionals. The fair, where professionals operating in the food industry participated as exhibitors and visitors, could not live its former liveliness by remaining in the shadow of the pandemic this year.

The fair held in Dubai took place this year between 21-25 February 2021. Both the news in the press and the posts on social media, it has been expressed many times by both participants and visitors that the fair was very dull this year compared to the previous years.

In this interview, we will convey to you the fair observations of Abdurrahim Özgen, the owner of Bizim Anadolu Kuruyemiş, who participated in this year’s Gulfood Food Fair as a visitor and is also a member of Coimex.

Dear Abdurrahim Özgen, first of all, thank you for your participation in our interview.

Have you attended the Gulfood Food Fair before?

Abdurrahim Özgen (AÖ): Yes, I went to the Gulfood Food Fair many times.

What are your general expectations from the Gulfood Food Fair?

AÖ: Every year, we come together with friends, and we work together at the Gulfood Food Fair. We meet new suppliers. It has become a bit of a habit for us to go to the fair and come together with people in the industry.

If you ask if this year’s fair met our expectations and did the fair contribute to us, no, it did not meet our expectations and it did not contribute to us. It used to contribute, but after the global epidemic, online activities and online methods gained importance this year. Many fairs, like many events, take place online.

Can you compare Gulfood with other fairs in general?

AÖ: Gulfood Food Fair is the most beneficial fair among other food fairs with the highest number of participants and visitors in the food fair sector.

What would the atmosphere of Gulfood Food Fair be like until the pandemic? Could you tell us a little bit about that? Was there a lot of attendance this year and did this year’s fair meet your expectations?

AÖ: In the past, this fair was very crowded and lively. It would be very difficult to walk through the fairground and talk to the people at the stands, we would have to wait in line to talk to the people standing at the stands. At the fair held this year, the number of exhibitors was less than half. The visitor rate was also one-third less.

“The Fair Was Looking Like A Local Fair This Year”

Many companies from European countries did not come to the Gulfood this year, neither as exhibitors nor visitors. 90 percent of the American exhibitors did not come to this year’s fair. In this sense, this year, the Gulfood Food Fair had a local fair view rather than a global fair view.

There were some Turkish participants at the fair. It used to be very difficult to find a place in this fair as an exhibitor. I can say that this year the fair was very empty.

Do you think physical fairs continue or not? Do those working in the food industry have a prediction on this issue? If the fairs continue physically, do you think they can meet the old expectations?

AÖ: After going through this process, I don’t think the physical fairs to be held will meet the expectations as before. Fairs have changed before and after the pandemic. It would be more beneficial to take action online with foreign trade companies and to connect with reliable companies through digital platforms.

I don’t think finding new markets, customers and suppliers can be done through physical fairs anymore. Now everyone has turned to online methods and B2B foreign trade digital platforms and will continue to gravitate in this process.

Online methods and digital platforms are much more practical and economical than physical fairs. Next year, even if the pandemic is over, I do not plan to participate in this fair. It has been a habit to attend the fair until now, but it does not affect anymore.

If you say that fairs do not provide the old result and do not meet the expectations, do you think there is an alternative solution to physical fairs? What are your thoughts on this matter?

AÖ: I don’t believe physical fairs will meet old expectations. As an alternative to physical fairs, I believe online events, reliable digital platforms and data will be used more and will be more beneficial in this process. Security in cyberspace will be a more important issue. People and companies will turn to reliable online solutions.

In foreign trade, do you think traditional methods will be as effective as before? Or will traditional methods be replaced by online methods? Do you think online methods started to be more effective after the pandemic?

AÖ: We are in the age of communication and digital. People reach everything more easily. In the future, online methods will become more common and will be used more. Reliable digital platforms, that are approved by official institutions and approved by many places, importance will increase, and people will abandon traditional methods and turn to reliable digital platforms more. The effectiveness of digital is increasing day by day and will continue to increase.

Do you think foreign trade people were able to adapt to online methods easily in this process? Do you think those who can adapt are in the majority or in the minority? What are the gains of those who adapt to online methods and the losses of those who cannot?

AÖ: Offline methods have left their place to online methods. Many people who are doing foreign trade, find it difficult to adapt to digital. Companies that cannot adapt to the digital world cannot gain new customers, maybe they are losing their customers. In addition, it lags behind its competitors, so there is no competitive power.

While those who adapt to digital average 30-40%, those who cannot adapt are around 70%. Companies that can use online methods and digital platforms are one step ahead.

In this process in the food sector, what is your plan for sustainable foreign trade? And what would you recommend to people in your industry?

AÖ: The supply chain has been disrupted because there is a pandemic in our lives now. During this period, there was also a shortage of containers. Everyone will try and strive harder. Those who have good courage and good network and use digital well will take the lead in this struggle.

Finally, is there anything you want to say or add, Mr. Abdurrahim?

AÖ: There was a visa problem for Turkish citizens at the Gulfood Food Fair due to travel restrictions because of the pandemic. Many people wanted to go to this fair but could not. Therefore, participation was low. In addition, the measures taken for the pandemic in Dubai, where the fair was held, were not very good. For this reason, many local and foreign people may have given up participating in the fair or going as a visitor.

During the process of going to Dubai, THY took the necessary measures, but unfortunately, there was no control or test situation in Dubai. Europeans and Americans who did not feel safe may not have come to the fair due to the very poor health measures.

In the past, we were getting together with our local employees, customers, and our foreign customers at the fairs. This has been a habit for us. After the pandemic, this habit seems to change. It seems that we will also get used to the new normal and using the digital world more.

Thank you very much, Mr. Abdurrahim, for sparing time for us and answering our questions.

Interview: Figen Karaaslan

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