DUBAI - The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) launched the first session of the National Dialogue for Food Security with the aim of facilitating constructive discussions among stakeholders from the government and private sectors to enhance food security in the UAE.
The event was inaugurated by Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Mohammed Mousa Alameeri, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Food Diversity Sector at the MOCCAE. Local farmers, private sector representatives, and members of the media attended the event.
Mariam Almheiri highlighted the importance of food security, particularly during times of increasing challenges such as global food supply chain disruptions following the pandemic and global conflicts, and the pressing challenge of climate change.
She praised the UAE's strategic steps to strengthen the local food production sector and reduce food loss and waste, including deploying advanced technology and launching initiatives like 'Nemah' to promote sustainability in national farms.
Almheiri emphasised the UAE's commitment to achieving the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy 2051 through partnerships and solutions that bring a paradigm shift in the agricultural sector and food systems, particularly as the host nation of COP28 in 2023.
The first session of the National Dialogue for Food Security included panel discussions on topics such as sustainable agriculture, food suppliers' contribution to national farms, agricultural innovation, and sustainable marketing of regional agrarian goods.
“Being the host nation of COP28 in 2023, the UAE is prioritising the acceleration of efforts to achieve the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy 2051 through partnerships and solutions that bring a paradigm shift in the agricultural sector and food systems. This will enhance the resilience and sustainability of the food sector," Almheiri added.
The first session of the National Dialogue for Food Security commenced with panel discussions on various topics, including sustainable agriculture, food suppliers' contribution to the viability of national farms, agricultural innovation, and sustainable marketing of regional agrarian goods.
Mohammed Mousa Alameeri stated that the UAE considers improving food security as a strategic priority, and it is one of the Ministry's main pillars of effort in collaboration with its strategic partners and stakeholders.
To achieve this, the Ministry aims to develop the agricultural sector and promote modern farming systems, including organic, vertical, and aquatic farming, which aligns with the strategy to enhance local production and improve food security.
To improve domestic agricultural output, the Ministry has established numerous strategies, including ongoing development of agricultural legislation and services, as outlined in the National Food Security Strategy 2051. The Ministry also collaborates with private sector institutions to further develop agricultural markets.
The National Farms Sustainability Initiative is a program that aims to meet the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy 2051. It aims to improve domestic production through securing purchase agreements, increasing the UAE's self-sufficiency on selected food commodities, and increasing UAE farmer incomes without affecting food trade.
The initiative develops methods to regulate the procurement of fresh national food products, builds a record of the needs of local government and other entities for fresh food products, and prepares a list of national fresh food products. It also develops a strategy to increase their purchases by government entities and rolls out a systematic method for enterprises specialized in sustainable agricultural production to manage the availability of products from farms.
The initiative collaborates with various entities, including the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, local farms, national enterprises, agricultural companies, government and semi-government entities, and private sector institutions. A working committee was constituted to oversee the initiative's implementation, which includes representatives from various government agencies.
The initiative aims to develop a sustainable market for national and state-level farms by securing contracts with government and semi-government agencies to supply their annual food and agricultural needs over three phases. The first phase aims to increase the percentage of purchases by government contractors to 50% of the domestic production in 2023, followed by increasing it further to 70% by 2025, and ultimately to 100% by 2030.
In the first phase, ten food products and plant varieties were identified, including red meat, poultry, table eggs, dairy products, dates, Leaf vegetable, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplants. Based on purchase data from contractors, a study is currently being conducted to identify more products for the second phase.
Five leading businesses in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah manage the contracts and coordinate with the national farms.
The Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment's recent statistics show that there are currently 38,000 farms operating in the UAE. These farms use various farming methods and agricultural production systems, including organic farming across a total land area of 46,000 dunam and aquatic farms (without soil) in a total land area of 1000 dunam.
The total UAE vegetable production is around 156,000 tons annually, with over 500 tons of field crops and feed, and fruit production is about 200,000 tons. The domestic production of vegetables currently meets more than 20% of the total demand in the country, with cucumbers accounting for 80% of the production, driven by the Ministry's endeavors to enhance the productivity of national farms.