Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Al Ghurair adds to storage capacity with grain silos in Egypt

The search for suitable agricultural land and farm facilities outside the UAE’s borders is driven by the country’s lack of water and its inability to grow its own produce.
Essa Al Ghurair, the chairman of Al Ghurair Resources, said that the UAE would be able tap about three months worth of food reserves at any given point should the need arise. Satish Kumar / The National
Essa Al Ghurair, the chairman of Al Ghurair Resources, said that the UAE would be able tap about three months worth of food reserves at any given point should the need arise. Satish Kumar / The National

The Al Ghurair Group is renting grain silos in Egypt in the latest move by the company to add storage capacity.

The group has already invested in an Algerian silos programme and acknowledges the benefits of satellite storage to guarantee food supply. The UAE imports as much as 90 per cent of its food requirements.

“It is not so easy to invest in a country when food is concerned,” said Essa Al Ghurair, the chairman of Al Ghurair Resources. “When you look at the acquisition of land you have to choose very carefully. It has to be a long-term, secure investment with a politically stable environment. If it is not, what happens when the home country needs the food? All of a sudden there is a problem.

“The country one invests in needs to welcome investment and have the logistical support such as roads, ports and airports to keep trade flowing.”

The grain stored in the silos is intended for Egyptian local consumption. However, in the case of an emergency Al Ghurair will make the grain available to the UAE government for up to a year.

The same applies to all Al Ghurair food holdings.

The search for suitable agricultural land and farm facilities outside the UAE’s borders is driven by the country’s lack of water and its limited ability to grow its own produce. The growing problem of water security with the UAE water tables falling and usage increasing will be the biggest problem in the future, experts said yesterday at Gulfood’s World Food Security Summit.

“The water situation in the UAE is alarming,” said Khadim Al Darei, vice chairman of Al Dahra Agriculture, a private Abu Dhabi-based company. “Food security is all about water security and that is why we should be concerned. We are blessed to be in a corridor of consuming countries and producing countries, and the private sector should take advantage of that for the good of the nation. There are huge swathes of Africa that have yet to be explored entrepreneurially.”

The pressure on global food security is increasing exponentially with the world population forecast to hit 9 billion by 2050 and food demand rising by 60 per cent, according to the US consulate’s office of agricultural affairs in Dubai.

“The UAE has made huge strides with regard to providing its need for eggs and dairy,” said Quintin Gray, regional agricultural counsellor for the agricultural affairs office. “These are two things which are not easy to transport and it has answered those questions. The country needs to work on agreements with local countries and, possibly, share technology and knowledge in return for the use of arable land.”

The country would be able tap about three months worth of food reserves at any given point should the need arise, according to Mr Al Ghurair.

“The UAE only has three months’ worth of food in storage, if the country pooled its resources, should the circumstances call for that,” he said.

The UAE has made strides in its food logistics and the GCC is now a major draw to multinational food companies as the region has increased its ability to supply raw materials for manufacturing and processing.

“We have just invested US$90million in a facility in Bahrain” said Alan Smith, managing director Gulf and Pakistan for Mondelez International, formerly Kraft Foods. “Five years ago we had to import 80 per cent of the raw materials we used for production. Today 80 per cent of the raw materials we use comes from the GCC. The world’s biggest food producers, such as Nestlé and Mars are here, because they can now have viable production facility here.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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Updated: February 9, 2015 04:00 AM

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