x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE in call for clarity over world food supply

UAE economy minister Sultan Al Mansouri wants international organisations monitoring food prices to give greater help to secure basic goods in the event of supply shortages.

Staple foods need to be safeguarded in the event of droughts or other food supply shocks Sarah Dea / The National
Staple foods need to be safeguarded in the event of droughts or other food supply shocks Sarah Dea / The National

Sultan Al Mansouri, the UAE Minister of Economy, has called for greater transparency in the global agricultural supply chain as bad weather pushes up food prices around the world.

He said international organisations monitoring food markets could do more to help governments secure basic staples in the event of droughts and other shocks to food supplies.

"We are very much concerned about reports coming out from different organisations about issues of drought, about issues of low production," Mr Al Mansouri said yesterday.

"All we are getting now from these organisations is these kind of warnings without the solutions, although they have all the data within their systems through which they could also advise certain countries about reports on the consumption and storage capability of countries."

Grain and oilseed prices surged after US crops suffered the country's most severe drought since 1936 in recent months. Water shortages have also hit farming areas of South America and Russia.

Mr Al Mansouri did not name the organisations he was referring to. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is one of the most closely-followed sources for global food price information. Its food price index held steady last month after rising at its fastest pace since November 2009 in July. But analysts for the organisation have warned of further volatility.

Mr Al Mansouri said the Ministry of Economy was taking steps to shield consumers by encouraging importers to diversify their sources.He said it had initiated an "excellent storage system" of basic items in the event of supply or pricing challenges.

Mr Al Mansouri was talking on the sidelines of an event recognising food retailers that had agreed to keep prices of basic goods low during Ramadan.

As a result, prices of 15 basic goods such as sugar, rice and meat were lower than anywhere else in the GCC during the Holy Month, he said. Next year, the Government plans to widen the campaign to focus on 20 basic items.

"Our objective ... is to see stability in prices of all these commodities throughout the year," he said.

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages in the UAE rose by 4.7 per cent last month from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics consumer price index. But weakness in housing contained the overall rise in the index to 0.95 per cent.

 

tarnold@thenational.ae