Navdeep Singh Suri Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: An ambitious project — the India-UAE food corridor — will benefit two million farmers and create an additional 200,000 jobs across India, thanks to cumulative investments of more than $5 billion (Dh18.35 billion) by the UAE in the next three years, a top Indian diplomat told Gulf News.

Explaining the idea of the joint food corridor that will further improve bilateral relations and people-to-people ties, Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri said: “We have a strategic petroleum reserve [in Mangalore] with the UAE’s Adnoc. Similarly, you could have a UAE food reserve in India.”

“Our prime minister suggested [to the UAE leadership] that just as you are our partner in energy security, we could also be your partner in food security,” he said.

“When you look at our energy security side, the partnership with the UAE has grown from [what used to be] a buyer-seller relationship to a truly strategic partnership,” Suri said.

The underlying logic behind the joint food corridor is utilising India’s fertile land that grows enough food to feed 1.2 billion people. However, 30 per cent of that food is wasted. The UAE could bring in the required investments for mega food processing parks, huge cold storage facilities, warehousing, logistics and transport facilities, so that when the crop comes into the market, the UAE entities can buy food at a cheaper price. “The UAE benefits from it and farmers also get a better price,” the ambassador explained.

‘Ambitious project’

Currently, India exports up to $2.5 billion of food to the UAE every year, and the joint food corridor may help triple that volume to the value of around $7 billion in the next three years, Suri noted.

The UAE side has already identified 20 specific food products that are currently imported in large quantities. India is quite competitive in exporting those products.

“The idea is to focus initially on these 20 products, such as certain cereals, vegetables, fruits and even poultry, to see if you could produce them in the India-UAE food corridor. The UAE entities are making their own collaboration with Indian partners and have the option to either process the foods or to put them into cold storage and take them back to the UAE when required,” the envoy said.

Initial estimates by the consultants suggested that the project would benefit at least 2 million Indian farmers and create 200,000 jobs directly in food processing, cold storage, logistics and so on, with investments upwards of $5 billion in the next three years.

 The idea is to focus initially on 20 products being imported, such as cereals, vegetables, fruits and poultry, and to see if you could produce them in the India-UAE food corridor.”

 - Navdeep Singh Suri | Indian Ambassador 

The UAE is putting in place the institutional mechanism to make investments in the corridor, working very rapidly. The Indian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is coordinating the efforts with the relevant state governments and central government departments at the highest levels. “It is a very ambitious project, which has been put on the fast track by the leadership in both countries,” the ambassador said.

The project will initially start in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, because of their access to the UAE via ports on the Indian west coast.

Food relations

2 million Indian farmers to benefit

200,000 jobs will be created

Dh18.35 billion to be invested in the next three years

Up to $2.5 billion worth Indian food exports to the UAE every year