Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, will open the event with an address that will outline the scale of the food security challenges facing the world. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: High-level stakeholders from across the global fresh food industry, including more than 500 public and private sector leaders and experts from around the world, have arrived in Abu Dhabi for the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) Conference 2022, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time.

WUWM is an international network of fresh food organisations, with 217 members working across 40 countries. Its goal is to ensure that people around the world have easy access to high-quality, healthy diets through a well-organised, safe, and sustainable food system.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, will open the event with an address that will outline the scale of the food security challenges facing the world, and promote the significant contribution that the UAE is making to building national, regional and global food ecosystems.

Speaking about the conference, Almheiri said: "The UAE is pleased to welcome the WUWM Conference to Abu Dhabi, as the meeting will address some of the crucial issues that directly impact food security in the region and globally. This is a subject of the utmost importance to the nation's wise leadership, and we are working with our partners in the private sector and the wider international community to collectively enhance food accessibility and availability."

The meeting will also feature an address from the Minister of State for Foreign Trade, United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, said: "About 23 percent of the food produced around the world is traded across borders, meaning food supply chains are critical to both consumers and communities. The global pandemic underlined both the complexity and the fragility of the global food system, and this year's WUWM puts the importance of building resilience into our farm-to-table infrastructures in the spotlight. As a nation that currently imports 90 percent of our food needs, with an annual value of $25 billion, the UAE is keen to shape these conversations and ensure ideas, programs and policies are put in place to ensure supply can always meet demand."

The event will also include a Special Address from Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED).

He said: "Against a background of rapid regional and global changes, the emirate of Abu Dhabi has invested significantly in developing the innovation, infrastructure and connectivity that underpins the UAE's national food security strategy. We are delighted to welcome the World Union of Wholesale Markets to Abu Dhabi and are eager to share key lessons around the role of fresh food markets in supporting community wellbeing and economic growth."

Other keynote speakers include Abdullah Humaid Al Hameli, Chief Executive Officer - Economic Cities & Free Zones, AD Ports Group; Stephane Layani, Chairman, World Union of Wholesale Markets, and Chairman and CEO, Rungis International; QU Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director, UN-Habitat.

Stephane Layani, said: "This Conference comes at a time where food security became one of the most pressing topics of Governments agendas, as the multi-layered crisis that we are facing highly increased the risk of food crisis and shortages around the world. This conference will be a precious opportunity to find bold new pathways to tackle the most urgent challenges that global fresh food systems are undergoing and to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems."

QU Dongyu, said: "Collective action is needed to build resilience in fresh food supply chains to better cope with environmental and other shocks and disruptions. These actions must focus on protecting the stability of food production and supply; reducing impacts on the environment by reducing food loss and waste and using climate-friendly technologies and innovations that enhance supply chain efficiency; and ensuring food safety."

Abdullah Al Hameli, CEO, Economic Cities & Free Zones, AD Ports Group, said: "As the host of WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022, AD Ports Group is grateful for the tremendous support received from our wise leadership, who have made food security a priority for the UAE. We are actively working with partners across the region to build a secure and sustainable future food supply chain and will share our progress on the development of the Abu Dhabi Food Hub - KEZAD with our peers in the international community at the conference."

UAE organisations participating include Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA), Etihad Cargo and SILAL, while international companies include Compagnie Fruitière Group, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Hunts Point Produce Market and Califrais. The Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi is a destination partner and Ghassan Aboud Group is a Strategic Partner of the event.

Meeting under the theme "Global food security in the XXIs: Risks, challenges and solutions to ensure resilient and sustainable fresh food supply chains", the conference will support industry leaders in working together on viable solutions to current concerns regarding the future of global food security.

WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022's discussion programme will begin with an opening panel on "Cooperation and collaboration: Toward a collective approach to global food security challenges". Highlighting the importance of building an urgent and coordinated response, the panel will bring together a cross-section of industry leaders to discuss the current state of global fresh food systems and the challenges impacting it.

Sessions during the day will continue the focus on developing and delivery of solutions, with panels dedicated to supply chain resilience, and to innovation. A "˜Supply Chain Resilience Panel' will analyse the benefits of localised systems to build resilience, while an "˜Innovation Panel' will examine the role digital technologies with the potential to revolutionise food systems by reducing waste, improving food safety, and by making production and transportation more efficient.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions will include a series of interactive roundtables, including "Assessing the role of governments and multilateral bodies in fostering and promoting food system transformation' and "˜Exploring infrastructure for the efficient and sustainable value chain in the 21st century'.