The UAE's billion dollar food problem

Annual rainfall in the UAE is 120mm, and coupled with having only 10% of available as arable has led the UAE to import over 80% (33.7mn tonnes) of its food which has created a food security problem. The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has put a priority on increasing the use of hydroponic technology among farmers, which relies on nutrient-rich water to grow plants with the use of little or no soil. The method saves up to 70% of water, while allowing for a longer growing season and avoiding harmful chemicals.The country’s dependence on food imports leaves it vulnerable to the performance of international food markets. It is for this reason that he UAE and other Gulf countries have been purchasing land for food cultivation abroad, most notably in Africa and Pakistan. Whilst farming overseas may provide a reasonably stable source of food, there are still more costs incurred with transport than if the food were homegrown.  

Source: British Centre for Business

Agriculture is the key to a prosperous Africa

Africa spends $40bn annually importing food, a cost expected to almost triple to $1110bn by 2025, and with 70% of the African population depending on agriculture for their livelihood, more attention must be given to this sector. Yields have been proven to double by giving farmers access to adapted seeds and fertilisers, and ensuring availability of information on proper farming practices.

Per the International Food Policy Research Institute, countries such as Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and others that are making big investments in agriculture, productivity on existing farmlands has risen by up to 6 per cent a year, spurring an average annual GDP increase of more than 4 per cent.

A scheme proposed by Agnes Kalibata, president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is to take the money spent on importing food and invest in farming, creating jobs for 11mn young people each year, improving systems, infrastructure, policies and institutions that support agriculture. 

The most recent example is from Southeast Asia, where governments invested 15 to 20 per cent of their national budgets in agriculture for 10 to 15 years ushered in rapid economic growth.

Source: Financial Times

Egyptian President, Sisi announces new animal husbandry farms

 President Sisi of Egypt has confirmed that new animal husbandry farms will be opened in the next few weeks capable of housing 200,000 cattle. They will be equipped with the latest equipment according to international standards and providing many job opportunities for Egyptians. Once the farms are open the price per ton of meat will be $2,750.

President Sisi also inaugurated the largest fish farm in the Middle East, in Kafr al-Sheikh expected to cover 70% of Egypt's domestic need of fish.

Source: Gulf Business

African Development Bank announce new agricultural transformation strategy

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has developed a new initiative called the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative to tackle the need of scaling up proven technologies across Africa. 25 African countries have already confirmed their participation in supporting the AdDB's current Feed Africa Strategy which aims to elimate the current massive importation of food and transform its economies by targeting agriculture as a major source of economic diversification and wealth, as well as a powerful engine for job creation.

The initiative will implement 655 carefully considered actions that should result in almost 513 million tons of additional food production and lift nearly 250 million Africans out of poverty by 2025, with rice, cassava, pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut, cowpea, livestock, maize, soya bean, yam, cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm, horticulture, beans, wheat and fish being the main benefited commodities. 

Source: Relief Web

How Jenaan is contributing to UAE food security

Jenaan, is an agricultural investment company based in Abu Dhabi, whose goal is to contribute to food security for the UAE through projects and services, such as supplying hay and forage for husbandry farmers. 

Other projects undertaken include: importing beef into Saudi Arabia to cover the shortage as well as importing/supplying animal feed for dairy companies and consumers as an alternative on the government’s restriction on local forage production. 

Source: Jenaan Investment LLC

Op Ed: The growing importance of UAE food security

Agthia’s CEO, Tariq Al Wahedi, recently published an Op Ed tackling the issue of food security across the UAE.

About 80% of the UAE’s food supply comes from lands more amenable to food production, which makes it essential for the UAE to manage risks in these source countries that could impact future food supplies. A solution to this dependence is to produce food locally.

Government subsidies for poultry feed used on local commercial farms encourage local production, along with support for dairy farms ensure a sufficient supply. Agthia themselves have stepped up to fill a gap by being a distributor for smaller chicken producers who were struggling to compete following the withdrawal of animal feed subsidies by using Agthia’s own brand of animal feed produced in the UAE.

There are several other sustainable options, including; better education, incentivises for international producers to open in the UAE and protecting local producers and industries through laws, such as banning the sales of imports for lower than fair market value. Agthia’s Op Ed explores these themes in greater detail here.

Source: The National