Middle East air cargo traffic will increase on average at a rate of 4 per cent a year for the next 20 years.

In 2009, the region’s air cargo traffic accounted for 7.7 per cent of the world’s tonnage, according to a report by US-based Boeing.

Dubai is one of the largest re-export hubs in the world and it currently handles about 70 per cent of the air cargo traffic for the entire Middle East region. The large volume of air cargo that flows through the Middle East, rather than originating or terminating there, reflects the region’s importance as a cargo hub. The region also has a significant sea-air market, in which goods from South Asia arrive in the Middle East on ships and continue to Europe by air.

Europe is currently the region’s largest trading partner. Trade with Europe accounted for just under 1.1 million tones of air cargo in 2009 and represented 41 per cent of the Middle East’s international air cargo.

Air cargo between the Middle East and Europe is forecast to grow 5.3 per cent a year up until 2029, according to Boeing.

Air cargo between the region and Asia accounted for 32 per cent of Middle East traffic and North America accounted for 10 per cent of the region’s air cargo traffic.

The Middle East is diversifying away from its previous reliance on the oil and gas industry and is busy developing new railways, airports and ports that will provide new trade routes.