UAE shores up food security amid virus - GulfToday

UAE shores up food security amid virus

Food Security

The UAE government has been keenly observing the issue of food security over the years. Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up one issue that’s been holding the world, particularly poor nations, in a vice-like grip: food shortages. The virus has made good, nutritious food all the more scarce while millions go to bed hungry. In this context, feeding a growing global population while minimising our environmental impact was the focus of Expo 2020 Dubai’s latest virtual thematic programme, Expo Talks: Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods.

The programme explored the urgent need for efficient, inclusive and resilient food systems in a world where, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), more than 690 million people go to bed hungry, and where the fallout from COVID-19 has doubled the number of people experiencing acute food insecurity to more than 270 million.

Reem Bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, said, “Today, food security stands as a hallowed and unassailable tenet of true human dignity. The capacity of all nations was tested in the early weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed the vulnerability of our global food value chain.”

Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security, said, “Expo 2020 takes place against the backdrop of a pandemic that has shaken the world and interrupted its food systems to an unprecedented degree, threatening millions with hunger and malnutrition.

“Fortunately agricultural technology –AgTech – is one area that is giving us hope as it enables the production of food with minimal resources and reduced environmental impact. The UAE has taken a lead in this sector. The National Food Security strategy has a target for the UAE to be a world-leading hub in innovation-driven food security by 2051.

From wildfires in California and locust attacks in Ethiopia to job losses caused by pandemic lockdowns in Italy and Myanmar, climate change and COVID-19 disrupted food production and tipped millions more people into hunger in 2020.

Now there are fears the situation could worsen this year as both the coronavirus crisis and wild weather aggravate fragile conditions linked to conflict and poverty in many parts of the globe.

In this respect, the United Arab Emirates’ resilient food system is tackling head-on the issues related to the global food supply during the current situation.

The establishment of the State Ministry for Food Security is timely, as it enables food security to receive dedicated attention locally across all stakeholders in the country.

The swift action taken by the Ministry in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as setting up the Emirates Food Security Council to coordinate efforts across all federal entities and local authorities, is simply commendable.

As soon as the global pandemic hit, the council held an extraordinary meeting to develop an early mechanism system to monitor food imports and local food production capacity potential. The council also connected with the Food Security Alliance companies in the UAE to best prepare for all scenarios.

Using innovations like vertical farming and climate-resilient crops, the UAE is devising its own ways to boost self-reliance where food security is concerned.

Farming in the UAE has been moving in a high-tech direction over the past decade. One project, Pure Harvest Smart Farms, has been producing a share of the UAE’s home-grown tomatoes since it launched in 2016, using the country’s first technology-enabled greenhouse.

Amid this virus-induced global food crisis, it is very important to support local production and reduce food waste. Steps should also be taken to avoid excessive food buying and the public should be encouraged to observe healthier eating habits to beef up immunity.

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