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UAE prioritises food security

Reduce waste to feed the 1 billion hungry people worldwide

  • Mocktails on offer at Rani juice stall on the second day of Gulfood 2013 exhibition at Dubai World Trade CentImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Chefs compete in the vegetable carving competition on the second day of Gulfood 2013 exhibition at Dubai WorldImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • A model displays premium loose tea at Alokozay stall at Gulfood 2013 exhibition at Dubai World Trade Centre.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Visitors throng the Dubai World Trade Centre on the second day of Gulfood 2013 exhibition,.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: A reduction in food waste could feed most of the one billion hungry people worldwide every day.

One in every seven people are starving every day in different parts of the world — while growing food waste due to lack of infrastructure and food habits remains a concern for world leaders.

The United States generates 90 billion pounds of food wastes annually that could feed all the hungry people in Africa, officials say.

“A large amount of food is wasted in India due to lack of infrastructure to store and transport perishable products,” said Essa Al Ghurair, Vice Chairman of Al Ghurair Investments, whose company stores 300,000 tonnes of food grains.

He said, his company is partnering with the UAE government in the country’s food security initiatives. Al Ghurair Foods, one of the largest importers of foodstuff and food processors in the UAE, is dedicating 10 per cent of its storage facility to the UAE government’s food programme.

“Although it is the responsibility of the government to ensure food security, the government cannot do it alone. The private sector should participate and share the responsibility,” he said.

With rising demand in foodgrain, fluctuation in food price, volatility and climate change issue, the UAE has initiated a food security measure that will see the country develop a strong buffer stock to feed its population in need.

“About 90 per cent of the Gulf’s food demand is met with imports as agriculture is restricted due to climatic conditions and land use restrictions,” said Shaikha Lubna Al Qassimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, said at the inaugural session of Gulfood conference. UAE’s total food imports were $7.7 billion last year, which is expected to reach 9 billion this year.

“The UAE has become a major global hub for rice, coffee and tea trading, due to its strong connectivity,” she said.

What you eat is how long you are going to live — is becoming more important to individuals on the one hand, while on the other, feeding a billion hungry people is becoming an increasing challenge worldwide, officials say.

While growth in global food demand is going to come from the developing world – which will see the population grow from 7 billion to 9.5 billion by 2050 – changing food habits in the new urban centres in the emerging economies will complicate things if sufficient food grain is not produced worldwide to feed them.

“Increasing population and the improved quality of food consumption pattern will put increasing pressure on the global food demand,” Don Glickman, former US Secretary of Agriculture, said at the Gulfood Conference on Monday.

About 75 per cent of the world’s water reserves are being used for agriculture and food production, resulting in decline in water levels globally — that is affecting the climate.

“We are seeing extreme weather variations in different parts of the world that was never seen before in modern history. Climate change is a major problem globally,” he said, urging people to “Water Up”.

He said, reduction in waste is critical in ensuring food security. “However, we also need to grow more food on less land, water and other resource by developing food technology and initiating green revolution where the consumers will benefit from high yield crops,” he says.

“Free trade is important to ensure greater food security. Food should be made a freely traded commodity that could move across borders without barriers.”

In this regard, he criticised export bans by some countries to protect domestic markets.