Food security has long been a priority issue in the Gulf. Faced with a hot, arid climate and limited groundwater, the conditions for large-scale agriculture could hardly be more challenging. As the region’s economy has expanded and the population has grown, so have the challenges of ensuring food security.
In response, the region’s governments, supported by local investors, have financed investments in international food production and logistics, as well as in domestic warehousing and storage capacity. As a result, the UAE, like the rest of the GCC, is officially classified by the UN as "food secure".
As global food suppliers become increasingly stretched by rising demand, however, the focus has shifted from capacity to achieving greater efficiency and self-sufficiency.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the region’s food and beverage (F&B) industry was undergoing significant transformation as governments implemented new strategies in response to population growth and climate change. Producers were also reacting to rapidly changing consumer behaviour, and the need for greater efficiency and sustainability.
To boost local production and minimise environmental impact, the UAE, along with other governments in the region, is investing in cutting-edge food production techniques such as hydroponics and vertical farming, smart irrigation and aquaponics.
Advanced technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) offer new opportunities for the F&B sector. These initiatives have taken on greater significance during the pandemic, which has highlighted the need for a local, self-sufficient and robust food supply chain.
Dubai has recently unveiled plans for the first phase of Food Tech Valley, an integrated city that will serve as a global hub for start-ups and estabilished companies to develop and implement agricultural technology (agritech) solutions.
This is creating new opportunities. The UAE’s goal to be a leader in innovation now extends to agriculture.
Investing in Food Security, the first MEED-Mashreq services and manufacturing roundtable, brought together industry experts from Alain Farms, Al-Ghurair Resources & Foods, Baqer Mohebi, Catalyst, Dubai Refreshments, Emirates Food Industries, General Mills, Hotpack Packaging Industries and Unilever Food Solutions to discuss opportunities for building a more resilient food ecosystem.
The experts also discussed the future of the industry in the context of innovation and nutritional improvements, to build a better landscape for all stakeholders involved in the food supply chain.
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