DUBAI: The Emirates Food Security Council held a remote meeting to discuss the latest developments in the local and international food security ecosystem and supply chain, and assess its readiness to keep up with the rapid transformations sweeping across various markets, affecting the movement of food products.
The Council examined the various systems set up to monitor food imports and the flow of agri-food goods and items, in addition to discussing the progress made on the programme to diversify food import sources and the communication plan bringing together all players of the food security ecosystem.
Chaired by Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, the meeting’s agenda included tasking the Councils’s Evaluation and Monitoring Team with following up on changes that may occur along the supply chain in the UAE. Participants asserted that food supply chains were operating with utmost efficiency and that local production is working to boost its capacity.
The Team’s tasks include providing practical solutions to the challenges and developments that may occur in the supply chain during this period. It brings together representatives of the entities involved in managing food supply in the UAE, namely: The Minister of State for Food Security as team leader; the Ministry of Economy; National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority; Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority; Dubai Municipality; and the UAE Food Security Office.
“Strengthening principal food supply chains to provide nourishment for every member of the community is a top priority for the UAE, and this in line with the directives from our wise leadership,” asserted H.E. Almheiri. “The UAE Food Security Council is working to implement the National Food Security Strategy, which seeks to facilitate the trade of food, implement tech-powered food production, reduce food waste and loss, ensure food safety and sustain food systems, and manage food-related risks and crises.”
“The UAE has built an integrated food security ecosystem in collaboration with various federal and local government entities, the private sector, and the community. It resonates with the efforts the UAE is undertaking to take all necessary precautions, address potential challenges, and propose solutions for them,” H.E. added.
“The Evaluation and Monitoring Team will closely monitor developments across the local and international food security ecosystem,” H.E. Almheiri noted. “Meanwhile, the Council will set plans and programmes to boost local production, diversify sources, and manage the entirety of the food value change in these extraordinary times.”
Monitoring Food Import Systems
Participants at the meeting discussed several programmes and plans, including setting control systems to monitor food imports and track the movement of goods and basic food products along the supply chain. Three stages were identified: Logistical movements on border crossings; Global Food Balance Sheet, which tracks the amounts of food available for supply and export to international markets; and early tracking of agricultural production via the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to keep up with agricultural developments and harvests around the world. The meeting also explored current data on local production capacities and the UAE’s readiness to upgrade its capabilities.
Programme for Diversifying Sources of Import
Members of the Council discussed the progress of the programme set up to diversify sources of imported basic food items, exploring alternative sources and new markets that could be accessed. The Council developed a model comprehensive supply system that will be provided to relevant authorities as a reference during food trade activities. The Council also tracks available logistical services in these markets, weighing the possibility of providing special flights, if necessary, in coordination with national air carriers.
The meeting also discussed developments in supply and demand at major food stores, exploring, in detail, food stock management systems and distribution mechanisms. In addition, the Council adopted a coordination plan with major food stores in the UAE that account for more than 80% of demand in the retail sector.
The UAE Food Security Council approved a communications plan that revolves around three main takeaways, namely: Establishing contact with key players in the supply chain, including the Food Security Alliance and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Examining the progress made on external agricultural projects to record production volumes and identify supply chains; and Enhancing communications with the private sector and developing periodic reports that track stocks of food along the supply chain.
The Council urged the public not to be swayed by rumours calling for excessive buying of food products, advising them instead to abide by instructions issued by the relevant authorities. Furthermore, the Council stressed the importance of continuing enacting precautionary measures to ensure food safety, which consist of five steps: Ensuring food cleanliness, separating raw and cooked foods, preserving food at the appropriate temperature, cooking food thoroughly, and using clean water and kitchenware when cooking.
H.E. Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director-General of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA), affirmed that the agriculture sector’s ability to fulfil consumer needs of plant and animal products. By embracing a flexible and balanced policy to utilize local resources and apply advanced agricultural techniques, such as protected agriculture, hydroponics, and cultivating salt-tolerant crops, he said that UAE has succeeded in bringing about an agricultural renaissance contributed to achieving self-sufficiency of some agricultural commodities.
Al Ameri noted that over 40 variety of crops are cultivated in a commercial way to meet consumers’ needs. Regarding the animal production, Abu Dhabi has 3.47 million of animal heads, adding that camel meat fulfils 100% of domestic consumption, while sheep meat covers about 26% of the total domestic consumption in the UAE.
“We are committed to the leadership’s directives to enhance food security system and increase reliance on local production. This year, we work on increasing plant and animal production in Abu Dhabi by over 13% from the previous year. We also seek to strengthen our partnership with the private sector, and to encourage agricultural and food companies to invest more in agriculture and food industries,” he stated. “In 2019, ADAFSA signed four cooperation agreements aim at increasing agricultural and food-related investments in the emirate and the market share of local product. In addition to approving seven investment projects by Abu Dhabi Investment Office, ADAFSA announced 17 investment opportunities in agriculture and food industries in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to increase local production throughout the year, and to enhance the food security system,” Al Ameri concluded.