The UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security and industry figures deliver insights at Gulfood Innovation Summit


Her Excellency Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Government of the UAE, and leaders in the global supply chain revealed the secrets to the UAE’s successful navigation of F&B challenges during the pandemic, and highlighted how the country will play a leading role in keeping food moving around the world in the new normal.

In her opening keynote address at the Gulfood Innovation Summit, the thought-provoking three-day conference running alongside Gulfood 2021, the Minister acknowledged that the Covid-19 pandemic had tested the UAE.

However, she pointed out how the political will of the UAE’s leadership, the importance of implementing a carefully considered plan, and the ability to communicate with stakeholders, enabled the country to keep food supplies moving and supermarket shelves full throughout a challenging year.

Outlining how the UAE has become a hub for agritech, allowing companies to farm and grow a wide variety of foods – from fruit and vegetables to salmon – pesticide-free in the Emirates, the Minister said the country’s agritech drive was not only to enhance its self-sufficiency, but to increase knowledge of how to grow food in an arid climate, while attracting youth and women into this burgeoning sector.   

The Minister told the Summit that the world has enough food to feed the more than 850 million people who go hungry every day, but work is required to transform global food systems to become more efficient. She urged consumers to play their part by being ‘more responsible around food’, choosing portion sizes wisely, buying local produce whenever possible and striving not to waste edible food.

During a panel discussion on supply chain challenges titled ‘Reaching 3 Billion Customers’, Ahmed Al Haddad, COO, DP World UAE region, pointed to partnerships between the ports operator, Emirates Airline and the Government of Dubai to keep the global food supply chain moving.

Carlos Garcia, partner, Middle East Customs & International Trade, PwC Middle East, meanwhile, said the situation had been helped by a change in mindset from regional customs authorities, which are no longer just policing borders but also acting as trade facilitators.

Garcia added that companies were leveraging data analytics and digital dashboards to facilitate trade activities and capitalise on regional trade incentives, stressing that partnerships with government authorities are a must for logistics companies to move goods faster and more efficiently.

Dennis Lister, VP Product and Business Development at Emirates SkyCargo, acknowledged that supply chain operators must become more efficient in digitising cargo operations, while Al Haddad pointed to the significant strides Dubai and DP World have made in embracing technologies to enhance efficiency.

“Our journey in digitisation began in 2004, through computerising part of our operations with a new platform, Dubai Trade. Today we have 20 million transactions online and Dubai Trade is used by so many companies,” he said.

Al Haddad added that an independent study into Dubai Trade shows that DP World’s digital transformation had helped Dubai save more than USD40 billion in trade costs.

The Summit continues on Tuesday, February 23 with key sessions including a focus on food waste and 2021 strategies for food processing and how consumers are now paying greater attention to food safety.