Food Industry Experts at World Food Security Summit on Sidelines of Gulfood 2015 Highlight UAE’s Capacity to Champion Public-Private Collaboration
GCC nations can play a leading role in spearheading strategic public-private sector partnerships to tackle global food security concerns, according to a series of experts speaking at the World Food Security Summit – the opening installment of this year’s Gulfood Leaders Events held on the sidelines of the landmark 20th anniversary edition of Gulfood.
A top-level platform to build coherent global governance on food security policy and strategy, the World Food Security Summit brought together ministers, key global policy-makers and senior industry professionals from the private sector to discuss and debate sustainable global agriculture industry, policy reforms, international farmland acquisition strategies and domestic agriculture initiatives, amongst others.
The World Food Security Summit was formally opened by Ahmed Alkhaja, Senior Vice President, Venues, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which organises Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food and hospitality trade show.
“Securing immediate and long-term food security remains an on-going priority for countries all over the world. In the Middle East, the heavy reliance on imports, population growth, increasing demand for animal proteins and limited water supply make the issue of food security particularly relevant,” said Alkhaja. “The World Food Security Summit provides a platform for key global policy makers and senior industry professionals to create our food security future, today.”
The gauntlet was immediately picked up by His Excellency Essa Al Ghurair, Chairman, Al Ghurair Resources, who reiterated the importance of public-private sector collaboration to combat food security challenges: “Security of food supplies is the foundation of a stable and safe society,” said Al Ghurair. “Food security is particularly important for the Gulf and wider Middle East because of rapidly increasing population, a dearth of arable land and the shortage of water. These factors are not going to change – so we need to mitigate them with strategic solutions planned well ahead of time.
“Vitally, these solutions cannot be company-centric or the result of policies dictated by governments. Neither the private sector nor government can achieve them alone – they can only be achieved by close collaboration between both sides. More investment by governments in technology, enhancing local production capabilities, food processing and storage facilities are solutions towards attaining sustainable growth here in the UAE.”
His Excellency Khadim Abdullah Al Darei, Vice Chairman, Al Dahra Agriculture, believes the UAE is already piloting several public-private sector schemes: “Food security progress requires sustainable, long-term solutions and in terms of effective, responsible and ethical agro-investment, the UAE has merged the private-public sector divide very well. The UAE is in the corridor of many major producing countries and consuming countries. The UAE can facilitate the passage of food between Africa and Asia. It can be a win-win case for the producing country and the exporting country.
“Al Dhara Agriculture has been investing to supply the government with food supplies. The UAE is at the forefront of government-backed, private sector investment in foreign land to expand their agriculture sectors and we need this collaborative, joint effort to tackle the issues.”
With much of the Summit’s opening session – titled Building Coherent Global Governance for Food Security – focusing on the largely nascent African agriculture industry, Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union, revealed Africa offers rich investment potential for strategic public-private sector partnerships to increase agricultural yields: “At present, the African agriculture industry is predominantly green-field and 95 per cent of agricultural land in Sub-Saharan Africa is rain-fed, not irrigated. As a continent, Africa is utilising only three per cent of its irrigation potential – there are significant investment opportunities.”
His Excellency Felix Koskei, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya, added: “Sub-Saharan Africa is a place where agriculture underperforms – yet it is a region of undisputed potential. The Middle East is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the engine of prosperity that is African agriculture by exploring and exploiting opportunities to invest in food security solutions which benefit both producers and exporters.”
With sustainable policies and strategies top of the Summit agenda, Quintin Gray, Agricultural Counsellor, Office of Agriculture Affairs, USDA, revealed five factors he believes should form the foundation of any international food security strategy.
“By 2050, the global population will be over nine billion strong and food demand will increase by 60 per cent,” said Gray. “To tackle this critical issue, we need a sufficient agriculture workforce to incentivise our youth to stay on the farm; we must maximise production on arable land; we must invest in new technologies to increase production; we must explore feasible and sustainable solutions to climate change-related issues, such as water supply; and we must improve the value chain to reduce post-harvest crop losses and waste. These five areas are of paramount importance when exploring food security policy.”
Alan Smith, Managing Director, Gulf and Pakistan, Mondelēz International, offered insight into how the private sector can aid the food security debate in a session entitled Increasing the Involvement of Corporates in Resolving Food Security Challenges.
“Transforming our agricultural supply chains is an essential foundation for a sustainable future and a key focus for food companies should be to employ innovative agricultural solutions and invest in commodities to ensure food security,” said Smith. “We need to tackle food security for all in an environmentally sustainable way, while generating economic growth and opportunity.”
Other prominent industry leaders addressing the World Food Security Summit included: His Excellency Khalifa Al Ali, Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Service Centre; Ad Spijkers, Sub-regional Co-ordinator for Gulf Countries, Food & Agriculture Organisation – United Nations (FAO); Amin Khayyal, General Manager, DuPont; Bashir Yousif, Food Safety Expert, Dubai Municipality; Rayan M. Qutub, CEO, Industrial Valley – King Abdullah Economic City;Sanjay Sethi, Managing Director and CEO, Signature Agri Ventures Limited, Africa; Dr. Saad A. Khalil Esa, Director, Office of King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad; Robert Powell, Global Risk Briefing Manager; Senior Economist and Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit; Dr. Balgis Osman-Elasha, Climate Change Expert, African Development Bank; David Currie, Fishery & Aquaculture Officer, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN); and Bobby Krishna, Principal Food Studies and Surveys Officer, Food Control Department, Dubai Municipality, amongst others.
The Gulfood Leaders Events continue on Tuesday 10th February with the Halal Investment Conference and end on Wednesday 11th February with the Food Franchising Conference.
Part of the second annual Dubai Food Festival, a city-wide culinary celebration running throughout February, Gulfood 2015 is a strict trade-only event and is open to business and trade visitors. The show is open 11am-7pm from February 8-11 and 11am-5pm on February 12. Visitors can pre-register at www.gulfood.com to save AED100 (US$ 27) on the on-site entry fee of AED250 (US$ 66.65).