Food security will continue to be a key challenge for many economies around the world due to the predicted growth in populations, diminishing supplies due to climate change, and bad behaviours revolving around food waste.
Keeping all these factors in mind, Wassim Said, senior consultant, UAE Food and Water Security Office, noted that investments in agritech will be critical in helping tackle key challenges.
Speaking during a recent webinar, Said highlighted the latest developments regarding the UAE National Food Security Strategy. He explained that, following the increase in global food prices in 2007 and 2008, the UAE really pushed forward the idea of food security as a top priority. This happened through the formation of the Food Security Centre in Abu Dhabi.
Established in 2010 by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, the Food Security Centre – Abu Dhabi (FSCAD), is tasked with ensuring food security, defined as the access for all citizens and residents to healthy, safe and nutritious food, even during periods of crisis. The centre’s mandates include developing food security strategies and emergency and contingency plans in cooperation with the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority; managing emergency reserves; supporting local production; and coordinating investments in the food sector in order to ensure security.
This, he said, was followed by the appointment of Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri as the UAE’s Minister of State for Food Security in 2017 – a first for the Arab world. As of last year, she has also overtaken the mandate of the UAE’s water security.
“Food and water security have been identified as the key strategic sectors for the UAE’s economic competitiveness,” Said noted. “They will be key to ensuring that our more well established sectors continue to grow and prosper, and that we continue to grab opportunities coming from new sectors such as the digital economy and space exploration.”
One of the most important missions when it comes to food security, he reveald, is that the prices of food items remain affordable, especially during moments of emergencies and crisis. “The Covid-19 pandemic actually tested the dimensions of the food security strategy that we have and we actually earned some bragging rights. While the world was in lockdown, we were operating business as usual since May 2020. The shelves didn’t go empty in the supermarkets and the prices were still in control; people didn’t even have to think twice about food stocks or if they had to buy in bulk for an emergency.”
Looking ahead, he said that work was already being done in several nice sectors including alternative foods, lab-grown meats, and vertical farming. “We will continue to look for a lot of investments, ideas, and research proposals in this space. We also want to go after more aggressive targets for local production with what is economically viable. Water security is as important as food security; we are looking at technologies that improve the quantity and quality of our supply side and we are looking at interventions that reduce our demand side.”