By Rafiq Vayani
DUBAI: Unity is essential if the global community is to continue ensuring supplies of food during the current coronavirus crisis – that was the message delivered by Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food Security at an extraordinary virtual meeting held yesterday for the forthcoming G20 summit, which is scheduled to take place in Riyadh in November.
The meeting of agriculture and food ministers of the Group of 20 major economies was organised to ensure the continuing flow of critical agricultural products including Foods in order to mitigate the risk on global food security during the current COVID-19 outbreak and to call for global cooperation at this time. Initially set to be held on March 21, the event had to be delayed because of fallout from the effects of the pandemic.
Because of the need for social distancing and restricted travel, the ministers participated remotely for the teleconferenced meeting, which was hosted in the Saudi Arabian capital. During the activity Her Excellency discussed an array of issues related to food security, chief among them was the need for countries to act in unison to maintain the supply of food and ensure that groceries and supermarket shelves remain fully stocked.
“My message today is clear and simple. Unity is vital if we are to successfully ‘navigate the now and plan for the next.’ The coronavirus crisis is a wake-up call for the whole world – joint action and solidarity are what is needed at this time,” said Her Excellency.
“The international food supply, which is too often taken for granted, is witnessing serious disruptions caused by various precautionary measures that threaten food production and food supply. These measures are also negatively impacting the lives of the people involved in the food and agriculture industry, so it is vital we work together in an active and committed way,” Her Excellency added.
Referencing the UAE’s National Food Security strategy, which the Food Security Office launched in November 2018 and which has strengthened the country’s resilience to food crises and emergencies, Her Excellency stressed that despite imposed travel restrictions and social distancing measures creating challenges for cooperation, it was imperative that countries worked together and followed the recommendations of international organisations. She also warned about unscrupulous actors taking advantage of the crisis by raising prices of essential foodstuffs.
“It is our duty to work closely and cooperate with all actors that facilitate the export of food and agriculture products. It is also incumbent upon us to follow the recommendations of specialised international bodies, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation as much as possible, who recommend avoiding restricting food exports as this could intensify the risk of food insecurity. Additionally, It is our duty to ensure food affordability and to take measures that prevent unjustified food price hikes and profiteering across the food supply chain during this time,” said Her Excellency.
Stressing the need for food safety during the crisis, Her Excellency added: “While COVID-19 is not transmitted directly through the consumption of food, food can be a vector for the virus if it comes into contact with it. It is therefore vital to remind people of good hygiene and standard food safety practices. These practices are quite simple and effective to combat the spread of COVID-19, especially as people are relying on food delivery during periods of lockdown.”
Her Excellency extended the UAE’s gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, for calling for the virtual meeting to discuss and enhance international efforts to combat Covid-19, as well for Saudi Arabia’s sterling leadership of the G20 response to the crisis. She also reiterated the sentiments of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who released a statement for the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit last month, reiterating that international cooperation and solidarity is needed now more than ever.
Finally, Her Excellency praised the efforts of global medical staff, carers, and other key workers leading the fight against the virus.
“Thank you to our front liners… The brave and dedicated men and women across the world who are working tirelessly day and night to keep us safe and to ensure food supplies are well maintained. We are eternally grateful for your devotion, hard work and sacrifices,” said Her Excellency.
The 2020 G20 Riyadh summit will take place in Riyadh on November 21–22 in the Saudi Arabian capital. It will be the fifteenth meeting of Group of Twenty (G20), with the kingdom having assumed the G20 Presidency in December 2019.