Dubai: The Emirates Food Security Council examined global food security challenges and their local repercussions during its first meeting of 2022, chaired by Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
The virtual gathering drew the participation of the Council’s members from the ranks of concerned federal and local government authorities, in addition to representatives of the National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Centre, and the US Regional Agricultural Office, as well as a host of international food market experts.
Almheiri highlighted the Council’s vital role within the UAE’s food security system as the central authority supervising the implementation of the National Food Security Strategy 2051 and the execution of plans and directions aimed at enhancing food production and food value chain management, establishing pioneering food projects, supporting the national economy, increasing the country’s competitiveness, and encouraging the public to contribute to boosting food security.
She said: “The UAE works to meet its goal of ranking at the top of the Global Food Security Index by 2051 through utilising data to inform strategies that advance the transition to a sustainable future, and ensuring the provision of safe and healthy food at affordable prices. We look forward to more achievements in the food security space in 2022.”
She added: “We must understand urgent global challenges if we want to confront them and overcome food insecurity. This requires everyone to view food from a holistic perspective as a pivotal factor in achieving a qualitative shift towards a better future, which the country is driving by investing in agritech and collaborating with international organizations, agricultural entities, and other stakeholders.”
The meeting explored several important mechanisms to enhance the UAE’s food security, the impact of international conflicts and rising commodity prices on the country’s food system, and the outcomes of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale. The attendees reviewed ways of cooperation to support local food producers and enforce food-related legislation.
The members also examined the challenges facing the country’s agriculture and food sector and the mechanisms for dealing with them at the federal level, such as exempting production inputs and agricultural equipment from tariffs and taxes. They recommended setting up an executive team with members from the Ministry of Economy (MoE), MOCCAE, and Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority to define and standardize mechanisms for enforcing legislation governing food products.
In addition, discussions involved the competitiveness of the UAE’s food sector, the need to increase local production and reduce operational costs for farmers and agricultural companies, the challenges of the agricultural sector that need to be addressed jointly by the local and federal governments, such as the high costs of establishing agricultural businesses, including license fees and technical requirements, the need for an umbrella organization supporting small farms, and the importance of providing agricultural insurance and financing to farmers at competitive terms.
Moreover, the participants emphasised the high possibility of exposure to global price changes, particularly in terms of animal feed, and the reluctance to work in agriculture due to low ROI.
The Council stressed the need to integrate agriculture and food data at the local and federal levels to inform decisions and respond to changes, develop a unified mechanism to deal with food loss and waste through a holistic perspective, support agricultural accelerator programs and projects that enhance food security, facilitate technology transfer, drive agricultural R&D focusing on modern technologies suitable for the local environment, control the imports of food products that compete with local products in terms of pricing, especially during local seasonal production, incentivize the hospitality and catering sector to purchase local agricultural products, and regulate promotions by major retail stores that affect the competitiveness and profitability of local products.
The participants recommended creating a team comprising representatives of MoE, MOCCAE, and Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority to develop and implement solutions to food security challenges within six months.
The Emirates Food Security Council focuses on priorities, plans, and programs related to food emergencies and crises, strategic stocks, local agricultural production, food safety, foreign investment, diversification of import sources, and nutrition.