Investing in food security
The opportunities for ensuring sustainable food supply in the UAE and GCC
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.
But as global food suppliers become increasingly stretched by rising demand, the focus has shifted from capacity, to achieving greater efficiency and self-sufficiency.
Even before Covid-19, the region’s food and beverages (F&B) industry was undergoing radical transformation as governments implemented new strategies in response to population growth and climate change, while producers were 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, has invested in cutting-edge food production techniques such as hydroponics and vertical farming, smart irrigation and aquaponics. And it is clear that advanced technologies such as robotics and AI offer exciting new opportunities for the F&B sector. These initiatives have taken on greater meaning in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the need for a local, self-sufficient and robust food supply chain.
Most recently, Dubai unveiled plans for the first phase of the Food Tech Valley, an integrated city that will serve as a global hub for startups and firms to develop and implement agritech solutions.
This is creating new opportunities. The UAE’s ambition to be the leading nation in terms of innovation now extends to agriculture as well.