Future investment and international cooperation is needed for Food Security in the GCC: a chance for Dutch expertise

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Food security is a priority theme of Dutch development cooperation policy. As the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products and technology, the Netherlands has much to offer and to focus on:

  • working towards an increase in sustainably produced food and better access to nutritious food;
  • making markets more efficient by removing barriers to national, regional and world trade;
  • investing in a better business climate so that the private sector can play an ever greater role in solving this problem;
  • contributing to worldwide research into agriculture, nutrition and management of natural resources, both by means of funding and the active participation of Dutch research institutions.

11 Dec 2016

In the GCC, the heavy reliance on imports, population growth, increasing demand for animal proteins and limited water supply make the issue of food security particularly relevant. The GCC food industry is growing exponentially due to the increases in population, disposable income as well as changes in food consumption behavior with greater demand for international and organic foods. These favorable conditions have opened the doors for vast opportunities to local and international food companies.

Saudi Arabia remains the largest food-consuming nation in the GCC, showing an annual average growth of 3.0%, however both Qatar and the UAE are demonstrating faster growth rates with 5.5% and 4.8% respectively.

For the UAE, food security is still a top priority and continues to be a pressing concern as the country relies on imports for 80-90% of all foods. It is predicted that food imports will rise from $100 billion (Dh367 billion) to $400 billion over the next ten years. Although great progress has been made with the establishment of a Food Security Committee, comprehensive food security studies and the development of the Food Security Centre - Abu Dhabi (FSCAD), the issue of food security is still a hotly debated, politically sensitive matter which poses ongoing challenges for local governments, ministries and private companies.

The food security panel During SIAL Abu Dhabi 5th December provided opportunity to hear from officials and experts on the most pressing issues facing food security in the UAE.

- Examining the current agriculture framework and exploring possible strategies for strengthening its position regionally and globally across sustainable development
- Considering best practice versus current for managing emergency reserves and supporting local production
- Guaranteeing the emirate’s food security through the development of national food security strategies, emergency response policies and contingency plans in
order to protect the country
- Ensuring a sustainable water future in the UAE by reviewing future strategies for demand management, agriculture sustainability, strategic reserves and low risk
contract farming

The UAE’s government has carried out numerous partnerships and projects to explore the potential of agro-food investments in different countries such as, Latin America, Africa, East Europe and other Arabic countries. But they were faced with challenges in regards to rules, regulations and local laws. In order to support local and regional food security, overcoming these challenges will be a long-term strategic mission. Currently the majority of agro-investment is in Africa.

The following issues were raised with regards to the future investment and reform:
- Exploring successful and possible financing options for irrigation upgrades and improving the quality of agriculture environment and conditions
- Working with international partners to develop laws and ethics to that provide a mutually beneficial contract agro-food investments best practice
- Preparing for crises including global shortages and supply-chain problems by managing strategic food stocks of key food commodities both inside and
outside the UAE
- Exploring the challenges and obstacles of foreign agricultural investments creating a portfolio of essential commodities for import into the UAE
- Developing a legislative framework to review and evaluate potential countries for agro-food investment