Summary of the F&B Networking Hub by SIAL Middle East

E-summit and Meetings' opening sessions

  

The sessions highlighted the importance of enhancing food and water security in the UAE, ongoing strategies related to food distribution and control, investment in agriculture in the Arab world, and supporting international agricultural investment

Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb AlMheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security, inaugurated the F&B Networking Hub by SIAL Middle East – E-summit and Meetings, the virtual event organised by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company (ADNEC), in collaboration with Comexposium and the support of its strategic partners, the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) and the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation, under the SIAL Middle East brand and in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Date Palm Virtual Platform.

 In her welcoming speech, H.E. AlMheiri, said: “We are all thankful that through these digital platforms, we have an effective means to communicate and support each other through these unprecedented times. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you today, and to open the SIAL E-Summit programme: perhaps the most important edition, in view of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has had such important implications for the agriculture, food, and beverage industry.”

H.E. AlMheiri added: "There is no doubt that this pandemic has had a profound impact on the global food supply and distribution landscape, with the necessary lockdown measures affecting the ‘just in time’ supply chains that we have come to take for granted over the years. This is something the UAE has felt keenly, importing, as it does, over 90% of its food. Fortunately, as a country, we have been able to weather the worst of the pandemic and ensure our shelves have remained stocked during this critical time. We have kept our heads above water, thanks to the resilience that we have built into the UAE’s food security system, and the launch of the UAE’s National Food Security Strategy. The strategy has set a strong foundation to enable us to deal with food crises and emergencies, just like the one we are currently experiencing. It does this by establishing specific targets for food safety drills and the reserve supply of staple food commodities, as well as for widening our international sources of food. This latter aspect, helped by the UAE government’s policy of forging firm and friendly relations with other countries around the world, has been key for overcoming the obstacles that we came across for the last few months.”

H.E. AlMheiri said: “Despite ensuring continued supplies, the food and beverage companies are nevertheless facing significant reduced consumptions. This is especially significant for the UAE, where the F&B industry is a vital driver of the country’s economy. The sector’s incredible rate of expansion in recent years is proof of this. F&B’s direct contribution to the UAE’s GDP increased by 138% in the ten years up to 2017, with employment in the sector growing by 119% over the same period.”

H.E. AlMheiri highlighted that the pandemic has created a range of opportunities in the food and beverage space. Online stores and e-commerce platforms have emerged, with one prominent shopping chain in the UAE recording a 300% increase in online orders and a 59% increase in new customers between February and April of this year. General e-commerce platforms have entered the grocery business to supplement their traditional retail business. Further, health food choices have become increasingly important, as individuals become increasingly aware of the importance of healthy food during the era of COVID-19. Sales of natural and organic foods have increases as supermarkets have launched their own ranges of organic products.

H.E. AlMheiri also indicated that sustainability is factoring as a more prominent issue, with consumers more educated on the need to consume food from more sustainable sources. That has been accompanied by sourcing food locally. This presents an opportunity for F&B stakeholders to earn revenue by catering to a better informed public that is demanding food that is produced in ways that do not harm the environment and reflects transparency when it comes to nutritional information and sourcing of food.

H.E. Maryam concluded: “It is clear that we are undergoing changes that have a far-reaching impact on the food and beverage sector. Changes that may ultimately be permanent, as opposed to transient. This compels us to take stock of not only how we produce and distribute our food, but our fundamental relationship with it. We should take note of the shift in demand trends, and adapt to it. These shifts are all towards more sustainable food systems.”

The welcome speech was followed by an opening session with the participation of His Excellency Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director General of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, His Excellency Mohamed bin Obaid Al Mazrooei, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development, and His Excellency Rashid Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Undersecretary of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

His Excellency Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, said: “The drastic impact of COVID-19 on all aspects of life, including food supplies, has made us rethink our priorities and has reshaped global operations in the agriculture and food sector. This highlights the importance of advancing the food, beverage, and hospitality sector at the global and regional levels, and the need to design more resilient food systems that can bridge the gap between global food supply and demand.”

H.E. Al Ameri added: “I take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of joining our efforts and learning from the recent experience with the pandemic. I would also like to highlight the great support provided by our wise leadership to this vital sector and the great ability to turn challenges into opportunities. The wise decisions and flexible measures taken by the government contributed to reducing the pandemic’s economic and social impacts on the food sector and maintaining food supplies. This ensured community wellbeing, by providing safe food to the public, despite all the challenges imposed by supply disruption around the world.”

H.E. Al Ameri indicated that ADAFSA has made key contributions, transforming Abu Dhabi into a global exemplary model in the food sector. Abu Dhabi received a food safety ranking of 99% from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and there are legislative and organisational frameworks across the food chain. The Authority has been assessing food safety risks, looking to ensure safety throughout the supply chain, and preserving animal and plant health. The Authority monitors the supply chain from farm to fork. In addition, ADAFSA are also keen in adopting flexible strategy and agile systems to address food emergencies, benefiting from the efficient management of the COVID-19 crisis. We are working on facilitating food shipment release systems and implementing smart, proactive, and risk based inspection systems.

H.E. Al Ameri stated that Abu Dhabi has always focused on creating an environment that is attractive to investment and supportive of businesses. This e-summit is an opportunity for all leading global companies in the food and hospitality industries to build promising partnerships with companies and local investors to find new market possibilities.

H.E. Al Ameri added: “These unprecedented circumstances have taught us the importance of working together towards finding innovative solutions to improve global food supply chains and to develop a more flexible and adaptive system in the food and hospitality industry. This is what we look forward to by having you, today, in this important summit. During this pandemic, Abu Dhabi managed to take a great leap in the agricultural sector, increase quality and competitiveness of local products to enhance the UAE’s food security system and create new opportunities in local food industries. This leading experience strengthens our belief that we can overcome these circumstances and attain more achievements and progress for our country and communities.”

His Excellency Mohammed bin Obaid Al Mazrooei said: “The Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development (AAAID) is pleased to be participating for the fourth consecutive year in one of the leading food and beverage events, the prestigious SIAL Middle East exhibition, organised by ADNEC. 2020 has been a year marked with challenges. These challenges have motivated scientists, technologists, and agriculturalists to create mechanisms and innovative technologies in different sectors and fields.

“The unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 virus stimulated several creative and innovative efforts to overcome the financial, social, economic, and environmental challenges that effected individuals, businesses, and governments. The level of the challenge is evident in the World Bank report on the agricultural sector’s GDP of the UAE, which has fallen by -5% in 2020. The AAAID’s efforts and activity in the field of agricultural investment and development is represented by 53 affiliate companies. Projects and companies are actively monitored and continuously enhanced to align their strategies with current global standards.

“We at AAAID have adapted a new and enhanced strategic plan for agricultural investment, where the criteria for all investment opportunities for new projects are set on benchmarking against best global standards. The flexibility of the new strategic plan enables the AAAID to respond to unforeseen changes in a timely and appropriate manner. The AAAID has also launched an initiative for fulfilling the urgent demand of Arab countries for basic food commodities through its affiliate companies and their inter-Arab partners, resulting in increased agricultural trade. This initiative was a consequence of COVID-19 and the breakdown of international trade and food supply due to limited mobility.”

H.E. Al Mazrooei said, "The goal is to secure the nutritional needs of the Arab nations and rid them of the fear of food shortages. AAAID and its companies create and implement numerous sustainable models that assist in increasing agricultural production and productivity, promotes social and economic development, protects the environment, builds a skilled workforce through green and capacity building programs. AAAID has currently invested in six companies in the UAE, three of which are currently operational, while the rest are in various stages of establishment. The total value of AAAID’s investment in the UAE reaches about AED 343 million in corporate assets.

H.E. Al Mazrooei concluded: “Recently, AAAID and the Al-Rajhi International Investment Company partnered to create TransAgri Holding Limited. A model agricultural investment entity, with the objective to be a pioneer in augmenting the performance of existing environmental companies and integrating related operations to enhance food security in the Arab region. AAAID would like to take this opportunity to invite businesses, financial institutions, agricultural organisations, and governments to join AAAID in combining know how and expertise to improve existing practices, focus on creating innovative and sustainable methods that support the advancement of the agricultural sector and thus promote global food security.”

On his part, His Excellency Rashid Abdul Karim Al Balooshi said: “The Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, through its Industrial Development Bureau (IDB), takes a great interest in this global, virtual platform and network, with leading international companies specialised in the food and beverage sectors. This event falls in line with the department’s role in supporting the UAE’s national agenda in food security and help achieve the objective of the National Food Security Strategy 2051.

H.E. Al Balooshi added: “We look to enhance the business relationship in the F&B sector as we anticipate the participation of the global industrial leaders to share their insights on the challenges within the sector. ADDED spares no effort the investments in environment and attract more industrial investments within the F&B sector. We in Abu Dhabi recently launched the Foreign Direct Investment license that offers 100% ownership to foreign investors. The FDI license comprises 122 diversified economic activities, across several sectors including agriculture, industrial, and services. The FDI licence targets capital investments ranging from the minimum of AED 2 million to AED 100 million and over.

“ADDED currently implements the Basics Industrial Project, which seeks to define a better industrial development investment areas in Abu Dhabi. While limiting the covered sectors to four, including food industries, the project aims at making Abu Dhabi self-sufficient in the local production of basic and consumer commodities. Eight investment areas in the food industries were also identified in addition to existing investments. We are keen to continue our efforts and strengthen co-ordination between IDB and Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), to study the various potential investment fields and development existing in basic industry, including food. We aim to achieve self-sufficiency in basic industries, particularly food, and analyse the gaps between local products, basic products, and those which are imported.”

The Department is currently implementing the Basic Industries Project, which aims to identify areas for local industrial investment at the level of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, while this is limited to four main sectors, including food industries, with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency for the emirate of basic and most consumed commodities. At the local level, eight investment fields have been identified within the food industry, to be added to the existing investments. We are working to continue our efforts and intensify coordination between the Industrial Development Office and the Abu Dhabi Investment Office of the department, to study the various available investment fields and analyse the gaps between the basic products produced locally and imported.”

H.E. Al Balooshi concluded: “The latest figures have shown that, in 2019, the value of imported animal products amounted to AED 2.7 billion. Imported plant products were valued at AED 2.6 billion. Abu Dhabi food exports value amounted to more than AED 6 billion in the same year. Re-export of food products through the port of Abu Dhabi amounted to AED 3.2 billion. The production licence within the emirate of Abu Dhabi reached 69, with the average investment value of AED 5.4 billion. The industrial pioneer licence within the emirate of Abu Dhabi reached 43, with an average investment value of AED 985 million. The food industrial establishment in the city of Abu Dhabi reached 38, with an average investment value of AED 3.1 billion. The food industries establishment in Al Ain city reached 25, with an average investment value of AED 2 billion. The food industries establishment within the Al Dhafra region reached six establishments, with an average of AED 221 million.”

On his part, Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, Managing Director and Group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company, said: “ADNEC is proud to launch the F&B Networking Hub by SIAL Middle East – E-summit and Meetings. The event demonstrates the extensive investment that ADNEC has placed into world-leading technological solutions that can enable business activity and industry growth, in spite of the global conditions caused by the pandemic.”

Al Dhaheri added: “This group of prominent figures hosted by the platform confirms the commitment of our teams in developing and providing the finest solutions for holding international events that enable the leaders of these sectors to continue their work and towards achieving their future goals. We are pleased to welcome the global leaders of the food, beverage, hospitality and dates sectors in this forum, and we look forward to welcoming them to the SIAL Middle East exhibition in its 2021 edition.”

The F&B Networking Hub by SIAL Middle East – E-Summit and Meetings was developed by ADNEC in the form of nine virtual sessions. The summit provides international exhibitors, specialised across the food, beverage, hospitality, and dates industry with the unique opportunity to meet and do business. The format was developed in line with current global conditions, in particular relation to ongoing travel restrictions, and in adherence with health and safety measures implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. Alongside the event, ADNEC will host a private virtual platform for 5 days, starting from 23 November, to facilitate live meetings between sellers and buyers.

-Ends-

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