ABU DHABI // The Arab world must work together towards food security amid a global food crisis, the environment minister has said.
Natural factors such as desertification, drought and low rainfall, as well as human causes such as political or armed conflict and growing populations require a strategic response from the region, said Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water.
The country is committed to supporting regional efforts towards setting up a strategic food reserve, the minister said in a statement recognising Arab Agricultural Day on Friday.
Dr bin Fahad also called for better use of the UAE’s location and infrastructure to set up the reserve. He urged Arab countries to intensify their efforts and reduce dependence on imported foods to close the food gap, which had reached US$35 billion (Dh128.5bn) in 2012, he said.
The region as a whole is abundant in plants, animals and fish, with 71 million hectares of agriculture land, more than 340 million livestock and four million tonnes of fish produced annually, Dr bin Fahad said.
But if Arab agriculture was fully developed, it would have the potential to help stabilise food prices and contribute to national and regional gross domestic product, reducing unemployment and improving the welfare of rural communities, he said.
The region also faces the challenges of having limited water resources and the lack of efficient utilisation of those available.
Arab countries will need about 550 billion cubic metres of water by 2025 to maintain food security, according to the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development’s Arab Water Security Strategy. That is about twice the amount of water currently available, Dr bin Fahad said.
Regional policies should aim for higher production inputs, enhanced potential of small farms, improved awareness and technical guidance services, preparation for climate change, more agricultural research and sustainable agricultural practices, he said.
Forty-three per cent of the Arab world lived in rural areas last year, according to the World Bank. In the UAE, 15 per cent of the population live in rural areas.
Updated: September 26, 2014 04:00 AM