UAE ranks top in Middle East and Africa for food security

UAE’s National Food Security Strategy seeks to strengthen local food output


Issac John

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A wheat farm in Mleiha, Sharjah. - KT file
A wheat farm in Mleiha, Sharjah. - KT file

Published: Wed 26 Apr 2023, 5:26 PM

The UAE ranks first among the 56 countries across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) with the lowest risk in terms of managing food security, according to a recent report by GlobalData.

Saudi Arabia came in third place after Israel in second place as one of the lowest-risk MEA nations in the GlobalData Regional and Global Risk Index (GCRI) for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022. Qatar and Kuwait followed in the fourth and fifth regional ranks, respectively, while Bahrain came in the ninth position on a regional level.

The report came as the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launched the first session of the National Dialogue for Food Security with the aim of facilitating constructive discussions among stakeholders from the government and private sectors to enhance food security in the country.

The UAE’s National Food Security Strategy 2051 seeks to strengthen the local food production sector and reduce food loss and waste, including deploying advanced technology. “Being the host nation of COP28 in 2023, the UAE is prioritising the acceleration of efforts to achieve the objectives of the National Food Security Strategy 2051 through partnerships and solutions that bring a paradigm shift in the agricultural sector and food systems. This will enhance the resilience and sustainability of the food sector,” Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said recently.

According to the GCRI report, the MEA region is seen as affected by supply chain disruptions and the consequent increase in prices of essential commodities such as food and fuel, which made it face mounting risks from food insecurity as well as rising debt.

The index, which incorporates the latest available macroeconomics, political, social, technological, environmental, and legal data, is topped by Switzerland, followed by Denmark and Singapore.

The MEA region depends mainly on Russia and Ukraine for imports of staple food items; therefore, its risk score went up from 54 to 54.3 out of 100 in the GCRI Q4 2022 update.

“The decision by Opec+ to cut oil production can impact the profitability of oil-producing nations in the MEA region, which rely heavily on oil exports to drive their economies,” Bindi Patel, economic research analyst at GlobalData, said. “At the same time, many countries in the MEA region are heavily dependent on food imports, and disruptions to food supply chains due to factors such as the conflict in Ukraine and Syria, drought in Horn of African nations and Kenya continue to create significant challenges for food security,” said Patel.

The GlobalData report noted that in spite of applying tighter monetary policies, the inflation level in the MEA region would remain alarmingly high, with only a marginal decrease projected. The inflation rate in the region is estimated to be 18.7 per cent in 2023, with particularly high rates anticipated in Egypt (23.3 per cent), Iran (40.7 per cent), Turkey (43.7 per cent), and Nigeria (19.3 per cent).

“The overall risk for the countries in the region is still upward, as a further slowdown in the global economy, increasing tighter monetary conditions, overall geopolitical tensions, and rise in poverty and food insecurity continue to negatively weigh on the MEA economies,” said the report.

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