The UAE has launched a new digital platform to foster the food and beverage (F&B) industry in its bid to drive growth, investments and trade opportunities as well as achieve food security targets.

Speaking to Zawya on the sidelines of the Future Food Forum in Dubai, where the platform was launched,  Saleh Lootah, Chairman of UAE Food and Beverages Manufacturing Group, highlighted the large range of opportunities in the UAE food and beverage industry that can be leveraged, but he noted that it lacks "data, infrastructure, and an ecosystem that allows key players to share their knowledge to elevate businesses in the country".

According to Lootah, the UAE's F&B sector is on track to generate $37.8 billion in revenues by end of 2023.

“What the UAE Food Platform will do is create an ecosystem that will link investors, manufacturers, trade partners, financial institutions, basically all the stakeholders in an industry to leverage data and new technologies to allow everyone to make the right decisions to elevate the sector, and achieve sustainability goals,” Lootah said.

The new platform aims to onboard more than 300 firms based in the UAE by the end of the year.

Suresh Vaidyanathan, CEO, Abu Dhabi Food Hub, a wholesale trade and logistics food company, spoke about the need of such an integrated ecosystem. “As a home-bred company that has benefited from a public-private partnership, we see a business case for the establishment of a food ecosystem to house key players.

“It not only aligns with the UAE’s National Food Strategy, but it also provides a gateway for new products to be manufactured in country, creates an avenue for future investments, allows for the deployment of new technologies to achieve food safety and security.”

Global opportunities

Lootah, who also serves as the CEO of the International Islamic Food Processing Association (IFPA), said that the platform would also allow 57 Islamic countries, including those in Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, to participate in key discussions to create and manage policy while benefiting from more trade opportunities.

The digital platform is not only expected to tap into the GCC food and beverage industry, valued at $100 billion, but will also build on partnerships to benefit from the $7 trillion global market, Lootah said.

The F&B industry is now at a disruptive junction with the Ukraine-Russia conflict, shifting oil prices, and other food security issues throwing up challenges.

“Over the past few years, the global landscape has changed considerably, and to retrench faster and make collective decisions, this ecosystem must grow further, with more public and private partnerships, to work as a united construct to find solutions that will work,” Lootah said, adding, “It’s by working together in a co-op approach, we can overcome challenges stemming from price inflations, rising manufacturing costs.”

(Reporting by Bindu Rai, editing by Seban Scaria)