x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bid for food supply link with Canada

Nicole Rogers hopes her new project will lower prices for consumers and increase monitoring of the products in the region.

DUBAI // A former Canadian trade commissioner is linking local food procurers to farmers in Canada to help ensure the security of the food supply in the UAE.

Nicole Rogers is hoping her new project will lower prices for consumers and increase how easy it is to trace the origin of products in the region.

“Whenever there’s a tighter supply chain between the producer and the farmer, you can trace back where the food came from,” she said. “Consumers want to know where their food came from and where it was grown so that’s a huge benefit to the consumer.”

Ms Rogers came up with the idea while working as a Canadian trade commissioner in Dubai. Her solution could also mean lower food prices for UAE residents.

“I felt there should be more communication between farmers and end-users,” she said.

She found that countries such as Canada, the US and Europe were not participating in Near East food security at all. “I felt I needed to develop something to try to alleviate the burden of food security in the Middle East,” she said.

She established Agriprocity with the aim of producing food more efficiently with a better use of resources.

“We bring together hundreds of farmers, we raise the profile of the Middle East and convince them that they’re nuts if they don’t look here as an export proposition,” she said.

In the past, the UAE has experienced sharp increases in its food prices due to natural disasters, such as the US drought in 2012. But the new project would provide consumers with more controlled prices.

“As soon as there’s not enough food supply, prices go up,” said Ms Rogers.

And with the UAE importing around 90 per cent of its food from different sources, its position is vulnerable.

“The Gulf is in a really price sensitive market for these products and it’s not sustainable,” she said. “They have to look to ways to keep pricing stable in the future because there are worries of sharp price increases.”

Consumers welcomed the move.

“If there are poor weather conditions somewhere in the world where the UAE imports food from, we might not be able to get that product any more,” said John Denmer, an American resident in Dubai. “It can be disconcerting at times to think about what would happen if our food supply were to be interrupted or discontinued.”

Mylene Fisher, from the UK, said lower food prices were needed.

“I find that the price of food fluctuates a lot here compared to other countries, which is normal given the part of the world we live in,” she said. “So anything that can contribute to stabilising that is helpful.”

James Kori, a British resident in Dubai, said the country should focus on securing the supply of its food for the future.

“We all know that growing food in the desert is not easy,” he said. “But it’s definitely comforting to know that the UAE is looking at securing at least one channel of its food supply with Canada.”

He said food prices had affected him in the past. “My wife and I have felt price fluctuations in food we buy from the supermarket but I think the Ministry of Economy is monitoring them to avoid prices getting out of hand.

“If this will help to control them even more, then it can only be good for us.”

Agriprocity has hundreds of farmers on board and more are expected to join. Some of the produce includes organic vegetables, rapeseed, wheat, barley and pulses such as lentils and peas.

“Big importers in Dubai can partner with more than 500 farmers,” said Ms Rogers. “They can even own the seed that goes into the land – we spend so much money on storage in the Gulf, it’s so much more efficient to store it in Canada. Our hope is that, ultimately, we are pushing investment in Canada and we are saying it’s a good partner.”

cmalek@thenational.ae