UAE: Dh6 billion worth of food wasted annually, says minister

Consumers' food behaviour has a big role to play



by

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Wed 8 Jun 2022, 3:35 PM

Food waste and loss is costing the UAE Dh6 billion per year, according to the country’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Al Mheiri.

Al Mheiri spoke at the social investment forum organised by the Emirates Foundation on Wednesday.

The Forum focused on the recently launched initiative, Ne'ma. This is a nationwide collaboration in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court. The initiative was launched to reflect President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's vision to reduce food loss and waste, encourage social responsibility, and promote the principles of sustainability.

Al Mheiri noted that her ministry had developed the national initiative, Ne’ma, after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed spoke to her during the Covid-19 pandemic. He told her that it was very important for people to understand that the food security goes beyond the role of the government, and that the private sector and consumers also have a role to play.

This is also in line with UAE’s goal (in alignment with the UAE’s National Food Security strategy and global UN Sustainable Development Goals) to half food waste by 2030.

Al Mheiri's speech was titled 'Introducing Ne'ma – the UAE's new collaborative approach to reducing food loss and waste'.

During her speech, the minister said that to reduce food waste, there must be a holistic approach where all stakeholders, including the government, the private sector, NGOs and the community need to be involved.

Al Mheiri called food waste a major global challenge and said that practical solutions must be found "to ensure the world’s capacity to produce healthy and sustainable food that will meet the needs of the world’s population and help end hunger."

"Currently," she added, "around one-third of manufactured food is being wasted while over 800 million people are suffering from hunger around the world. If half of the wasted food can be utilised, the world can eliminate hunger.”

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The minister said consumers’ behaviour around food plays a major role in food security.

The Ne’ma initiative aims to encourage the public and private sector entities to collectively address food waste and encourage responsible consumption to preserve food resources for a sustainable future.

“As the national initiative for food loss and waste, Ne’ma will bring together the efforts of the public sector, private sector and wider community across the food value chain and will be a catalyst to achieving the UAE’s commitment to halving food waste by 2030,” said Al Mheiri.

“In support of this, we are launching the “Ne’ma Pledge” today, as a first step towards stimulating collaborative action among entities and individuals and creating a national movement that can multiply the impact on expected outcomes.”

Al Mheiri urged people in the UAE to buy only what is needed and only prepare just enough food for their family members to avoid waste.

After ten years of investing in Emirati youth and delivering a series of successful programs to help them reach their full potential, Emirates Foundation is readjusting its focus. It now aims to concentrate on building community resilience and is focusing on creating communities that are more open to change.

Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Managing Director and Board Member of Emirates Foundation, said, “As part of our new strategy to build more resilient communities, the Ne’ma initiative has been formulated with the purpose of promoting and aligning shared responsibilities amongst key national stakeholders to reduce food loss and waste, including government, the private sector, NGOs and the general public."

“Today," he continued, "we are looking at ways to address the crucial matter of food loss and waste, working out how to achieve impact at scale, and targeting all sectors to encourage the practice of food waste reduction by adopting responsible purchasing and consumption habits.”


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