UAE better prepared to navigate pandemic, food and water security, minister says


The UAE’s food supply chain is better prepared to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic than several other countries, thanks to its advanced preparations and national food security strategy plan, said the UAE’s Minister of State for Food and Water Security.

“For many years, we have been preparing ourselves and recognised before the pandemic that over-reliance on global food supply chain makes us vulnerable, that occur beyond our control. So we developed a nationwide plan,” Mariam Almheiri said during the opening address of the Gulfood 2021 Innovation Summit, which began at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Sunday.

“As with numerous countries, Covid-19 has impacted our supply chain. But potential consequences for the UAE could have been very serious since our supplies bring more than 90 per cent of the food we eat. However, in many ways we had prepared better than others to navigate this pandemic,” she said.

“When crisis hit, our National Food Security Strategy was put to the test and we can proudly say that we have so far managed plentiful supplies at this critical time. To implement the strategy, a suitable governance model was put in place well-before pandemic. Also, the Emirates Food Security Council was formed with all relevant partners, which played an instrumental role in ensuring all activities are coordinated between various actors to keep food supplies moving,” she said during the opening address.

“Having a plan and good governance model with all relevant stakeholders helped the UAE to manouever through the pandemic and ensured that supermarket shelves are well supplied with all food needs of the citizens and residents,” she added.

Hassan Al Hashemi, vice-president of international relations at Dubai Chamber, said Dubai has leveraged technology and global partnerships to enhance food security to navigate challenges during Covid-19.

Online sales a key factor

Al-Hashemi identified the Covid-led digital transformation as a key factor driving the exponential growth in F&B e-commerce sales last year, adding that Dubai’s advanced technology infrastructure, world-class logistics facilities, high-Internet penetration rate and high disposable income among consumers are also key elements that supported the upward trend.

The remarkable progress achieved by the UAE’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign, increased national efforts to enhance food security, Expo 2020 Dubai and newly-introduced incentives to attract foreign investment to the country will also play a major role in sustaining the local F&B industry’s growth in the near future, he added.

An analysis by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry released at Gulfood 2021 on Monday showed that online sales within the UAE’s food and beverage market surged 255 per cent year-over-year in 2020 to reach $412 million (Dh1.5 billion) and is set to reach $619 million (Dh2.3 billion) by 2025, recording a compound annual growth of 8.5 per cent between 2020 to 2025.

Dr. Nizami Imamverdiyev, economic researcher at Dubai Chamber, revealed that the UAE recorded six per cent growth in sales of fresh food products in the UAE in 2020, reaching $7.9 billion (Dh29 billion) and recorded four per cent growth in sales of canned food products during the same year.

Dr. Imamverdiyev identified grains, vegetables and fruits, vertical crops, healthy and halal food products that have high potential where the UAE can expand trade with other markets.

Developing new technology

Mariam Almheiri noted that agriculture technology (agritech) is fundamental in growing a sustainable food ecosystem, a direction that is increasing production of certain food items locally and thereby reaching a high level of self-sufficiency.

“Developing this new technology sector is not only about increasing our self-sufficiency in food, but also to grow and develop the knowledge and producing these foods in harsh climate as well as attracting youth and women in this vital sector,” she said, adding that the country has taken great stride to grow agritech sector.

“An example is Abu Dhabi Investment Office has invested $150 million in just last 12 months in agritech companies,” she added.

UAE F&B online sales market performance & outlook:

> 255% growth in online F&B sales in 2020

> Dh1.5 billion online F&B sales in 2020

> Dh2.3 billion annual online F&B sales in 2025

> 8.5% CAGR for online F&B sales during 2020-2025

Fresh food total sales in UAE

> Dh29 billion in 2020

> 6% growth in 2020

> Dh550m invested by Abu Dhabi Investment Office in agritech firms in 12 months

UAE’s road to food security measures:

> Enhancing self-reliance

> Investing in agritech

> Advance planning for food sustainability

> Joint collaboration of all stakeholders

> Full ownership to foreign investors in agriculture projects

Source: Dubai Chamber, Ministry for Food Security, KT Research

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