x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

GCC’s dependence on imported food to be highlighted at Dubai summit

Hundreds of international experts and government officials will gather to address the man challenges facing the UAE's food security.

Hundreds of international experts and government officials will gather in Dubai on Sunday to address the challenges of food security.

“The region is entering a new period of economic growth underpinned by a burgeoning population with a high dependence on imported food. Food security is an immediate priority,” said Dr Rashid bin Fahad, the Minister of Water and Environment Development, who will be speaking at the summit.

“Execution of a core food security strategy is essential to provide a sustainable growth platform.”

“More and more consistently over the last six to seven years, the GCC states are trying to develop a strategic intervention on food security,” said Zahra Babar, the associate director for research at the Centre for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

“Globally, when institutions talk about food security, largely, they’re identifying countries where access to food is something that is difficult. The most insecure part of the world tends to be in sub-Saharan Africa so, traditionally, you don’t think of Gulf states as insecure as they have some of the highest GDPs in the world and they can easily meet their food needs.”

Ms Babar, a speaker at the summit, said the Gulf’s geographical location and lack of water and arable land made it difficult to produce an abundance of food.

“Importing up to 90 per cent of their food makes them extremely vulnerable,” she said. “Oil and gas resources provide a healthy balance of payments to import food and meet the demand of the population but policy-makers recognise that they’ll never be completely food-sufficient.”

The UAE and other Gulf states are looking at a mixed approach, involving a growth in domestic production and increased international trade with overseas investment.

“The UAE has started experimental ventures to try and look at ways to replenish large aquifers and to try and change the pattern in the way water is used,” said Ms Babar.

The two-day World Food Security Summit is part of Gulfood, which runs until February 27.

cmalek@thenational.ae