DUBAI, (Pakistan Point News - 14th Dec, 2019) The 10-place leap that the UAE has achieved on the Global Food Security Index, moving from last year’s 31 in the rankings to this year’s 21, reflects the efforts of the UAE government to establish the country as a world leading hub in innovation-driven food security, a top official said.
"Our leadership has issued clear and ambitious directives to transform the UAE into a world leading hub in innovation-driven food security with clearly set targets. These include the National Food Security Strategy goals, which are enabling all citizens and residents to have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for an active and healthy life at affordable prices at all times, including emergencies and crises," said Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security.
"The constant and committed support we receive from our leadership is a strong incentive for the team to transform challenges into opportunities and successes," Almheiri explained.
"This support has helped establish a stimulating work environment that has empowered us to explore this vital sector and work with our internal and external partners to tackle challenges and turn them to opportunities.
"Our leadership’s support has enabled us to achieve our objectives to increase domestic agricultural output, guarantee food safety, attract investment into the food value chain, diversify sources of food imports and engage the community in the food security ecosystem," she continued.
"The UAE’s impressive improvement in the Global Food Security Index is a testament to the tremendous progress we have made. This is the result of a team effort from the Food Security Office, government entities, private-sector partners and the community to build an integrated ecosystem that can take concrete steps in the national food security sector.
"Enhancing the UAE’s competitiveness and leadership is a main objective of the National Food Security Strategy, which has the goal of taking the UAE into the top 10 countries on the Global Food Security Index by 2021," she added.
She highlighted that the leap the UAE has made in the index, which is issued each year by the Economist Intelligence Unit, represents a new achievement to be added to the country’s track record of successes and reflects the concerted efforts to enhance the UAE’s competitiveness and leadership among nations.
The Global Food Security Index 2019 covered three main criteria – food availability, affordability, and quality and safety – and assessed 113 countries. Singapore and Ireland maintained their lead from last year, coming in first and second place respectively, while the United States, Switzerland, Finland, and Norway were ranked at third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place respectively.
Rounding up the top 10 were Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands and Austria. Meanwhile, the UAE’s move of 10 places up the index saw it overtake highly competitive nations in the food security sector, including Italy, Spain and South Korea.
Mariam Almheiri was appointed as Minister of State for Food Security in 2017 with a mandate to tackle the food challenges facing the UAE, in particular its water scarcity, lack of arable land and rapidly growing population – all of which have made it necessary to rely on imports that now comprise 90 percent of the UAE’s total food.
Almheiri’s team is working to address these issues by focusing on three main aspects: planning, adopting advanced technologies, and enhancing research and development. These objectives are in alignment with UAE Centennial 2071 aspirations, which seeks to establish the UAE as the best country in the world across an array of sectors.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, launched the National Food Security Strategy in November 2018 with the aim of enhancing food security in the UAE.
The strategy identifies 18 main food items including plants, livestock, and fish products as constituents of the UAE food basket and adopts five main pillars: diversifying food import sources, developing sustainable local production enabled by technology along the entire food value chain, reducing food loss and waste, ensuring food safety and improving nutrition systems for all members of the community, and improving resilience to risks and crises.
Ten innovative strategic initiatives were launched earlier this year to advance the strategy, with the Food Security Office using an Ag-tech Accelerators Programme to remove identified barriers to enhancing food security in the UAE.
The initiatives included launching a national brand for sustainable agriculture, the Modern Agriculture Financing Framework, the Agricultural Loan and Supply Chain Guarantee Programme, building codes and standards for agricultural facilities, the Unified Agricultural Licence, the Food Security Data Platform, the standard specifications for fish farming, establishing a fish feed mill and the Atlas of Aquaculture.
The Food Security Office has also launched a number of initiatives to engage all segments of the community and raise awareness of food. These include the FoodTech Challenge conducted in partnership with Tamkeen, an Abu Dhabi-based company mandated to deliver projects to meet the UAE’s vision of knowledge-based development.
Launched in September this year, the challenge aims to encourage individuals, institutions, universities, research centres and companies from around the world to come up with innovative and economically feasible solutions to identified challenges across the UAE’s food value chain.
Also in September this year, the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing launched the policy for labelling food products with nutritional values, in collaboration with the Food Security Office. The policy aims to raise awareness in the community of making healthy food choices and reduce the incidence of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity.
In November this year, the Ministry of Health and Prevention launched the National Guide for Nutrition in collaboration with the Food Security Office, with the guide aiming to improve the nutrition of all members of the UAE community, in accordance with a wider vision for a healthier and more sustainable future.
The UAE government works through the Food Security Office to expand its global network for cooperation and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise regarding the latest advancements and methods used to increase agricultural and food production using modern technology.
It seeks to strengthen communication and establish dialogue with decision makers, academics and heads of research centres to import advanced food technologies into the UAE, as well as diversifying food sources by establishing partnerships between food-exporting countries and various private institutions in the country.