UAE talks target cattle, grain trade

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Ben HarveyThe West Australian

A high-level trade delegation from the United Arab Emirates was in Perth yesterday to thrash out a way to secure more live cattle and wheat from WA farmers.

UAE Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri met Premier Colin Barnett and Agriculture Minister Ken Baston as part of the oil power's bid to secure its food supply in coming decades.

Expanding the amount of WA grain shipped to the UAE by getting rid of supply chain bottlenecks, particularly with regards to how the commodity could be cheaply stored, was high on the agenda.

It is understood the delegation also examined ways to boost the number of live cattle sent to the region, with the goal of turning the UAE into a central beef market for the Middle East.

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"This is a very important visit for us in terms of exploring new opportunities," Minister Al Mansouri said at a lunch facilitated by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, the Department of State Development and the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"We looked at the issue of food security and how we can make sure that the right logistics are provided for storage and supply. This is not an important issue for you, food security, but it is for us as we are a desert country and we very much rely on imports from other parts of the world."

Minister Al Mansouri's concerns about inefficiencies in the grain supply chain were echoed by law firm Clyde & Co, which has a big presence in the Middle East. The firm, which set up in Perth in September last year, said bottle necks and access issues were challenges for grain trade.

Partners Maurice Thompson and Jenny Thornton, who attended yesterday's lunch, said overcoming these problems would open fresh markets for local Australian farmers and traders.

Mr Barnett declined to detail specifics about his meeting with the delegation.

"We discussed building a more formal relationship between the UAE and WA in areas of resources, agriculture and education," he said.

The UAE is WA's 11th biggest trading partner, soaking up almost $900 million a year in goods and services from WA.

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