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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

New think tank to tackle food security concerns in UAE

The first meeting will be held at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre next week

The government will launch a think tank of 50 public and private entities to identify strategies for long-term food security, it announced on Thursday.

The first meeting will be held at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Centre next week.

“We are in an arid region, facing challenges that any country faces,” said Mariam Al Mehairi, the Minister of State for Future Food Security. “So we need to basically put our heads together and come up with tangible, sustainable solutions for the food production sector.”

Six sectors have been identified: livestock, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, date production, and aquaculture. “We need to focus and listen. What are the bottlenecks that they are having, why can’t they develop as we would like to see them develop?”

Participants will include representatives from 10 government bodies directly involved in supply chain and day-to-day productions including the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Economy.

Nearly 90 per cent of the country’s food is imported. The agricultural sector in the UAE must optimise the produce that is profitable and competitively priced.

“We can produce whatever we want here, we have the means to do it but when you get a product that is much higher [in price] than the products you could import, it doesn’t have a competitive edge anymore.”

A key part of the national water security strategy was achieved this week when the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority announced that it had the world’s largest reserve of artificially desalinated water. The reserve is in the interior under the Liwa desert, piped in over 27 months from the Shuweihat desalination plant. Some of its wells are up to 80 metres deep.

In addition to local food production, the Ministry for Food Security will look at diversifying import routes, said Ms Al Mehairi. Much of the country’s imports pass through the Suez Canal, Bab al Mandab and Strait of Hormuz.

“You have to always look at good alliances with strategic countries,” said Ms Al Mehairi. “It is a must that we look at alternative routes of how certain food staples are also coming into the country. That’s definitely something we’re going to be looking at more.”

About 15,000 visitors from the food and agricultural sector are expected to attend the Forum on February 5 and 6.