Dubai – Developments in local and global food ecosystems was the topic on the table during the fourth meeting of the Emirates Food Security Council, with participants discussing the readiness of the UAE to keep pace with various market changes and the extent to which food supply chains can work with high efficiency to maximise the potential of local production.
Held on November 12, 2020, the virtual meeting was chaired by Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security in the presence of council members and federal representatives, H.E Sharif Al Olama, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure; H.E Juma Mohammed Al Kait, Assistant Undersecretary for the Foreign Trade Sector at the Ministry of Economy; H.E Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al-Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centers and Clinics and Public Health at the Ministry of Health and Prevention; H.E Engineer Osama Amir Fadl, Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology; H.E Sultan Abdullah Alwan Al Habsi, Assistant Under-Secretary of the Regions Sector at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; and H.E Obaid Rashid AL Hassan Al Shamsi, Director General of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.
Also attending the meeting were representatives of local government entities, including H.E Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director General of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA); H.E Dawood Abdul Rahman Al-Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality; H.E Dr Abdulaziz Saeed Bin Butti Al Muhairi, Director of Sharjah Health Authority; H.E Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi, Director General of the Municipality and Planning Department in Ajman.
Specific areas under discussion in the meeting included the mechanisms for monitoring the price of food products at points of sale in the country and food trade data figures for the third quarter of this year. Participants also reviewed the progress of the “statistics of local agricultural production” project, the national system for sustainable agriculture, the National Nutrition Committee and the work plan of the National Committee for Reducing Food Waste and Loss. The Council’s dashboard was also presented.
Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri stressed the importance of ensuring continuous follow-up of all local and international developments related to food security in order to maintain a proactive vision and develop successful solutions to challenges, in accordance with the vision and directives of the UAE’s wise leadership. Her Excellency reiterated that it was vital to strengthen the UAE’s food security ecosystem to ensure the ability to meet all of society’s food needs now, in the future, and under all circumstances.
“The world is going through a unique set of challenges associated with the spread of COVID-19, which has had profound effects on all sectors at the global level. The process of facing these challenges and finding appropriate solutions to address them requires the mobilisation of the efforts of all parties concerned with food security. The role of the Emirates Food Security Council is to ensure continuous cooperation between stakeholders, to exchange innovative ideas and to provide solutions that support the food sector and ensure its ongoing sustainability and development. The council aims to overcome all challenges in a way that enables the country to provide healthy and adequate food to every citizen and resident, with its efforts adhering to the highest international standards,” said Her Excellency.
During the meeting, the ‘Sandbox initiative’ was reviewed and approved by the council members. The initiative is concerned with finding innovative solutions to on-the-ground challenges in our food systems and involves conducting temporary assessments and stress-testing of these solutions in a safe environment for a short period of time before gaining approval of the Council.
National System for Sustainable Agriculture and label
The meeting also reviewed the National System for Sustainable Agriculture and label, a key pillar of the comprehensive national food security ecosystem. The initiative aims to develop sustainable local production with technology across the entire value chain by activating legislation and policies that contribute to increasing production in a sustainable manner, raising the standard of living for target groups, increasing economic competitiveness, ensuring food safety, and improving nutritional values to enhance overall public health. The National System for Sustainable Agriculture and label also aims to create a new economic sector for youth and entrepreneurs across the entire food value chain, as well as enhance academic and professional specialisations related to sustainable agriculture. This system is a key pillar for transitioning to more sustainable food systems.
National Nutrition Committee Action Plan
The meeting discussed the work plan of the National Nutrition Committee based on a study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Prevention. The study indicated high rates of overweight (67.9%), obesity (27.8%), and other chronic diseases such as diabetes (11.8%), high blood pressure (28.8%) and high cholesterol level (43.7%) as a result of consuming unhealthy foods. These foods are often high in calories, as well as fats, sugar and salt. Therefore, it was decided to change some of the proposed initiatives to focus on projects to improve the current health situation in the country and the needs of community members and international recommendations in this field.
Nation Committee for Reducing Food Loss & Waste
Finally, the meeting discussed the action plan of the National Committee for Reducing Food Loss and Waste led by Dubai Municipality, which involves drawing up a federal legislation for food loss and food waste, developing a unified electronic system for food loss and waste, and launching a national strategic indicator for this area. The action plan will see the issuance of a manual of practice for food loss and waste control procedures, update food standards and enhance the awareness of the impact of food loss and waste to food security in educational curricula.
The Emirates Food Security Council is responsible for following up on the implementation of the National Food Security Strategy, which aims to develop a comprehensive national system based on enabling sustainable food production and defining the elements of the National Food Basket. The council works to achieve the goals of the strategy, which includes facilitating global food trade, diversifying import sources, developing technology-driven sustainable local production for the entire value chain, reducing food loss and waste, ensuring food safety, improving nutrition, and enhancing national capacity to face food security-related risks and crises.