A food security alliance between the UAE and India is envisaged soon, Mariam Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi, the UAE Minister of State for Food Security, said here on Thursday.
Winding up her two-day visit to New Delhi, Al Mehairi said such an alliance would have strategic importance and UAE's proximity to India made it feasible. She described it as "work in progress" following her visit which generated wide interest in India in view of the critical importance of food security for the second most populous country in the world.
The UAE Ambassador to India, Dr Ahmed Al Banna, who along with the Minister, addressed the crème de la crème of the India's agro and food processing industries and said the possibilities for productive engagement between the two countries in this sector were immense.
The private sectors of both the UAE and India were looking at these opportunities and Dr Al Banna envisaged joint ventures in the food sector soon. He put the UAE Minister's pioneering visit to India in this context.
The interactive session was hosted by India's premier industry organization, the Confederation of Indian Industry, CII, which has leading companies from the agro and food processing sectors among its members.
Al Mehairi said her concept of a bilateral food security alliance was similar to strategic cooperation between the UAE and India in energy security, which was conceptualized following recent high level exchanges by leaders of both countries. This arrangement is working well and Abu Dhabi's oil is now being stored in India's strategic oil reserves in Karnataka state.
Priyanka Mittal, who briefed Al Mehairi and Dr Al Banna on behalf of CII, said 85 per cent of India's basmati rice exports go to the Middle East. The UAE is the number one destination for the famed agricultural produce, which is integral to any Arab cuisine that includes rice.
Mittal called for harmonization of safety and other standards between the UAE and India in the area of food and agriculture business for augmenting cooperation. She also called for engaging each other on mutual protection of trademarks.
Al Mehairi unveiled the idea of setting up an "Indian food city" in the UAE. It could be set up in a free zone in the UAE and would work well for value addition in the zone and exports to third countries. Such a facility would allow India to bring its advanced food and agricultural technology which can be harnessed in the UAE for mutual benefit.
Several UAE companies in the food sector which are looking to promote business with India in this new area of bilateral cooperation attended the interactive session hosted by CII. They included ADVOC, which specializes in vegetable oil exports and Lulu, which sources food from India for its retail chains on a large scale. The UAE-India Business Council was also represented. Haridas Pantheeradi, Director of CII's Gulf, Middle East and North Africa department explained the rationale for the interaction.