The UAE’s aim to further enhance food security in the country and attain number one ranking in the Global Food Security Index by 2051 were the key focus areas at a webinar entitled ‘Agritech - Enhancing Food Security in the UAE’, organised by DP World, UAE Region and Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza) in collaboration with the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED). The webinar was held virtually in the presence of H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, who delivered a keynote speech and Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO & Managing Director of DP World, UAE Region and CEO of Jafza who gave the opening remarks.
Abdulla bin Damithan, Chief Commercial Officer, DP World, UAE Region; Djamal Djouhri, CEO, Al Ghurair Resources Oils and Proteins (AGROP) and Al Ghurair Foods (AGF), Al Ghurair; Ralph Nehme, Senior Director, AeroFarms participated in a panel discussion moderated by Richard Thompson, Editorial Director, MEED.
H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security said: “Ensuring the efficiency of the food supply chain is a top priority for our leadership in the UAE. Key players like DP World, UAE Region and their flagship port and free zone play a pivotal role in enhancing the UAE’s leading position as a global trade hub, and especially food trade. This supports our National Food Security Strategy in facilitating food trade, in which the strategy serves as a roadmap to overcome all food-related challenges via innovative solutions such as accelerated adoption of agricultural technology (Agritech), a strategic direction for the UAE. Agritech will help increase our domestic food production while minimising the use of water, one of the scarcest resources in our region.”
Her Excellency added: “Agritech is transforming the UAE with a growing landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA’s) in the form of indoor greenhouses and vertical farms that typically use 95 percent less water than traditional farms.”
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World said: “Food security has been a priority in the UAE since its inception. From being a country that primarily has vast stretches of desert land to now being a booming hub for Agritech, we have indeed come a long way. It is the concerted efforts of our wise leadership that have helped us attain a leading status in this sphere, whilst being a testimony of our commitment to achieve the Sustainability Development Goals. As we utilise the power of modern technologies to boost agriculture in the nation, we are certain that we will meet our goal of increasing food production by 30-40 per cent in 10 years. Increased investments and the UAE’s robust digital infrastructure will accelerate our progress in the field.”
Securing the supply chain
DP World, UAE Region has been a key contributor to the growth of the F&B sector in the UAE and the region owing to its foodstuff, livestock, and agricultural products sector in Jafza that is valued at AED13.3 billion. The flagship free zone’s dedicated F&B cluster spreads over an area of 1.55 million sq. meters, supporting over 4,700 port customers and hosting over 550 companies from more than 70 countries in Jafza. Its world-class business ecosystem consists of partners capable of trading sugar, beverages, meat, cocoa, dairy produce, fruits and nuts, coffee, tea, and spices.
Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO & Managing Director of DP World, UAE Region and CEO of Jafza said: “Our wise leadership has made great efforts to tackle the environmental challenges, including the inadequacy of water and rain, the consequences of climate change, global warming, the scarcity of fertile land, and the growing population with initiatives such as the National Food Security Strategy 2051 and the Emirates Food Security Council to enhance the flow of the food supply chain. In fact, in June last year, the Federal Cabinet approved a national system for sustainable agriculture to improve the efficiency of farms in the UAE, enhancing our self-sufficiency in food. We, on our end, are offering our full support through our world-class hub for food and agriculture that hosts various companies.”
As part of the panel discussion, Abdulla bin Damithan, Chief Commercial Officer, DP World, UAE Region said: “Supply chain has a pivotal role in the growth of any economy. Disruption in the supply chain has a direct impact on Food Security. There is huge scope on how we can achieve sustainability with technological innovation and management of food and agriculture with futuristic solutions. The recently launched F&B Terminal at DP World is a progression in achieving this goal, which is aligned with the country’s vision to establish the UAE through Dubai as a leading innovation and F&B hub. We need to disrupt the old norms, promote international trade partnerships, and collaborate and work towards supporting the country’s pioneering initiatives.”
Djamal Djouhri, CEO, Al Ghurair Resources Oils and Proteins (AGROP) and Al Ghurair Foods (AGF), Al Ghurair said: “Dubai is the gateway to 61 per cent of the UAE's F&B trade by value. The efforts taken by both government and private sector entities to strengthen the food system and the entire food value chain in the country are tremendous. However, despite being a nation that is largely food secure it is essential to carve a roadmap that will help us prepare for the challenges of the future, which can include increased pressure on demand and supply for food and water resources.”
Boosting food sustainability
DP World, UAE Region has continually focused on building an efficient logistics system to serve the food and agricultural products industry. The entity takes full advantage of its network that efficiently reaches global markets and over 3.5 billion consumers. It has further enhanced the F&B business environment by employing digital economy tools.
Commenting on the urgent need for sustainability of the food supply value chain using new improved methods and technologies, Ralph Nehme, Senior Director, AeroFarms explained: “The need to host such dialogue is crucial, especially in a world that is moving at a neck-breaking pace when it comes to developments. To ensure that we maintain sustainability, we must look beyond traditional practices. Since 2004, we, at AeroFarms, have been pioneering and leading commercial indoor vertical farming and agriculture from genetics to post harvest to create a more sustainable approach.
Giving insights on urban agriculture, Henry Gordon Smith, Sustainability Strategist, Agriculture Consulting said: “According to a report by Fitch Solution’s the UAE consumer spending over 2021 is positive with real household spending projected to reach AED505.6bn in 2021. Higher spending power will lead to an increase in demand in the sector. To guarantee no food shortage, countries around the world can use the power of urban agriculture that can provide the global population with at least 10 per cent of its fresh fruit and vegetable supply.”
“The UAE has long placed a high priority on food security, and has for many years, led efforts to promote food security nationally and regionally,” said MEED editorial director Richard Thompson. “In recent years, the emergence of a new generation of technologies in food production and logistics is creating opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce waste and build resilience in food and water supply systems. MEED is delighted to work with DP World to promote discussion and create a forum to exchange ideas and information in the critical area of food security in the UAE.”
DP World, UAE Region’s Food and Agriculture Terminal at the Jebel Ali Port has positioned Dubai as a major gateway for global trade in the F&B sector. Spreading over 1 million square meters, it has a canal with a depth of 16 meters, allowing shipping cargo on a large scale.