Top officials during the event.
Business Bureau, Gulf Today
The strengthening of national and global food security was the topic on the agenda during the visit of Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, to South Korea last week.
Building on the existing strategic alliances that the UAE has with Asia’s fourth largest economy, the visit that took place May 13-15 formed part of the UAE’s extensive Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme, the world’s largest relative to national income.
Accompanied by Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, UAE ambassador to South Korea and a delegation from the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture - a UAE-based non-profit agricultural research centre - Almheiri used part of her three-day visit to the South Korean capital Seoul to participate at the Global ODA Forum for Sustainable Agricultural Development. Hosting international agriculture experts, sustainable food production stakeholders and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation representatives, the annual conference is a significant driver for the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, of which the UAE is a major international contributor.
Also on Mariam Almheiri’s agenda were meetings with her counterparts from South Korea’s public and private sectors to examine ways of furthering food security cooperation projects between the two nations. Among those she discussed collaboration opportunities with were Kim Jae-su, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Chang-Gil Kim, President of the Korean Rural Economic Institute. Topics included in the talks were national priorities around food security for both the UAE and South Korea and the two countries’ resolve to enhance food security globally.
“The UAE is committed to meeting its food security objectives, as enshrined in its National Food Security Strategy, which aims to take the country from its current position of 31st most food secure country in the world to being in the top 10 by 2021 and number one by 2051. It is also committed to enhancing food security globally and two things are essential to achieving these twin aims; the first being the bolstering of international alliances and the second the implementing of high yield sustainable food production methods in parts of the world that need it. My visit to South Korea involved discussions and meetings relating to these key elements as well as participation at the third Global ODA Forum, where I shared with delegates the initiatives that the UAE has made in the food security sector and discovered more about what other international players are doing in the field,” said Her Excellency.
Almheiri’s visit to South Korea was a further demonstration of the UAE’s commitment to delivering ODA. The country has maintained its position as the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to national income for five consecutive years, according to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD. During her visit, Almheiri commended South Korea for being the world’s first country to transition from a recipient of ODA to a provider and also stressed that the international development assistance that the UAE gives comes in a variety of forms.
“The UAE and South Korea share similar development traits - both have undergone periods of rapid urbanisation and enrichment and as a result have been able to become leading ODA providers on the global stage, in the case of South Korea moving from being a recipient of aid to a provider. With respect to the UAE, our international aid is not just restricted to the delivery of food, money and medicine - which it provides more than most countries in proportion to its national income - it is also focused on passing on technology and expert know-how. Our aim is to pass on the advanced technical solutions we have developed in our agricultural technology sector to help build the capabilities of countries to produce food in similar environments in a sustainable way. Ultimately, we aim to be a main player in global food security as much as we are a top provider for ODA,” said Mariam Almheiri.
Also included as a main part of Mariam Almheiri’s itinerary were site visits to cutting-edge sustainable agriculture companies currently operating in South Korea. These included Farm8, a vertical farm that produces peppers, leafy vegetables and sprout vegetables for major multinationals such as Starbucks and Subway, as well as for smaller local concerns; InsungTech, a manufacturer which produces and sells plant factory systems; and Manna CEA, a farm that operates aquaponics, the symbiotic cultivation of fish and plants, on a commercial scale.
The visit of Mariam Almheiri to South Korea also had wider strategic objectives relating to enhancing broader relations between the two countries. It follows closely February’s visit of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Seoul to meet with the country’s President Moon Jae.