DUBAI: Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food Security, has undertaken an official two-day visit to the United Kingdom, where she held a number of meetings with government ministers, officials and representatives of prominent food research centres, universities and companies to explore bilateral cooperation in the areas of food trade, investment and scientific research.
Speaking about her trip, on which she was accompanied by H.E. Mansoor Belhoul, UAE ambassador to the UK, Her Excellency explained that it was aimed at identifying ways to enhance bilateral food trade between the two countries and to further collaboration in the field of food security by reviewing the latest research and projects underway in the sector.
“This visit formed part of our efforts to upscale our global partnerships and establish a framework based on cooperation in the field of food security to achieve mutual benefits. The UAE and UK share strong historical ties and have strategic partnerships in several areas, with food security being one. The UK is ranked third in the Global Food Security Index and as such, has comprehensive experience in the field. This presents us with a great opportunity to study best practices and leading projects, to work together to develop mechanisms to enhance bilateral food trade, to develop more food security projects in the UAE and to attract further investments to our food sector,” said H.E. Mariam Almheiri.
“The UK boasts an inspiring track-record in the fields of research and development and in sustainable food production. We, in turn, strive to employ the best expertise and experiences, taking into consideration the UAE’s unique climactic conditions and to leverage all possible means to achieve the targets of the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy. We are working towards securing a top 10 position on the Global Food Security Index by 2021 and to carve out a pivotal role in international efforts to achieve global food security,” H.E. Almheiri explained.
Her Excellency affirmed that her visit to the UK was extremely successful, following the fruitful and productive talks held with different ministers, officials and experts, and in light of the UK’s assertion that it was committed to fully cooperating with joint efforts to enhance food security in both countries.
High-level talks to enhance trade and investment
The first day of the visit saw a high-level meeting attended by H.E. Almheiri, Rt. Hon. Conor Burns, UK Minister of State for International Trade, as well as senior officials from the ministry, representatives from the UK’s most prominent food companies and a group of high-profile investors. The conversation with the minister centred on an exploration of trade opportunities, while the latest practices in the food security sector and existing science and research in the field of agriculture and the potential for partnership in areas of relevance to the UAE were discussed with the other representatives.
During the meeting, H.E. Almheiri asserted that collaboration can be enhanced by expanding bilateral food trade and encouraging further investment in the UAE’s food sector, as well as outlined the National Food Security Strategy and the leading food and agricultural initiatives and projects currently underway in the UAE.
“We must work to expand the circle of cooperation to serve the interests of both countries at the local and international levels. We also need to put in place a joint action plan that ensures the thorough implementation of future collaboration plans in the areas of food trade and food security,” Her Excellency added.
Rt. Hon. Conor Burns reaffirmed that the UAE and UK share close ties across an array of sectors. He underlined the importance of sustaining such strong relations and of working on common issues, citing the UK’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai and the efforts to increase food trade between the two countries.
The UK minister also highlighted the UK’s commitment to inviting the largest British investors to attend and examine the promising investment opportunities offered across all sectors in the UAE, particularly in relation to food production. He discussed his visit to the UAE, which aims to enhance cooperation in the sphere of food security, explore investment opportunities, and deepen existing ties between the two countries.
Future Collaboration in Research
H.E. Almheiri also met with George Eustice, UK’s Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, along with a number of senior officials from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) – an executive agency of Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – most notably Prof. Gideon Henderson, Head of the Scientific Team at CEFAS, in addition to a number of representatives from Fera Science, which specialises in agri-food science.
The meeting discussed the scientific research and joint efforts, especially in fish farming. H.E. Almhreiri affirmed that the UAE has made many strides in the field and showcased several leading fish farming projects, as well as the research efforts of the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) and its role in advancing local and international fish farming technology.
H.E. Eustice pointed out that the upcoming period will see strong collaboration in the agri-tech field through the deployment of capabilities to enhance the exchange of expertise and the utilisation of cutting-edge technology to launch more joint ventures. The CEFAS team gave an overview on the latest sustainable fish farming solutions, methods to reduce food waste across the entire food value chain, and the technology that enables the transformation of biodegradable waste into nutritional and protein-rich materials. The meeting also touched on avenues of future partnerships between the Food Security Office, CEFAS and Fera Science.
H.E. Mariam Almheiri concluded her first-day’s activities with a meeting with professors, researchers and specialists from UK universities that included University of Exeter, University of East Anglia, University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh, Lancaster University and University of Birmingham, as well as representatives from agri-tech companies, to explore current food technology initiatives underway. During the meeting, Her Excellency gave a presentation on the pillars of the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy, its efforts, achievements and ambitions to achieve food security based on innovation and modern technology and the UAE’s goal to be one of top 10 countries in the Global Food Security Index by 2021.
For their part, speakers from the participating universities presented the leading research efforts of their respective institutions, while highlighting their role in enriching research and development in the fields of agri-tech and food production, and in developing national and international food production projects using state-of-the-art solutions that bolster food production across the food value chain.
Norwich Research Park
H.E. Almheiri dedicated the second day to visiting Norwich Research Park (NRP) in Norwich, England. The park incorporates several research centres working in various fields, including food and growing fish resources. Her Excellency met with a number of NRP’s founders and developers and discussed best practices in operating NRP and its most important and scientific findings.
Her Excellency also went on a tour of the Sainsbury Laboratory, one of the world’s largest food research centres that specialises in agri-tech research and plant genetics and learnt about the latest applications and scientific experiments conducted on various strategic crops.
On the sidelines of her visit, H.E. Almheiri met with representatives from the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute, the Earlham Institute and Tropic Biosciences. The meeting explored the latest research and scientific advancements relating to local and international food security. Her Excellency expressed the UAE’s eagerness to replicate these successful research experiences across UAE-based centres and universities to enable the exchange of scientific and academic expertise towards achieving outputs that benefit both countries in several fields, most notably achieving local and global food security.