UAE: World off track to achieve Zero Hunger, says minister

She added that a third of all food that is produced goes to waste – even though 800 million people remain hungry


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 5:40 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:46 PM

Urging the UAE youth to play a crucial role in increasing awareness of food security, and sustainability, the UAE’s Minister of State for Food and Water Security, Mariam bint Mohammed Al Mheiri, said ‘innovation should be at the front and centre of our food systems transformation’, while addressing the multifaceted challenges that the global food system faces today.

Addressing the audience on the first day of Gulfood 2023 at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Monday, Al Mheiri explained that emphasis should be placed on the importance of all topics related to climate smart agriculture, food loss and food waste, as well as healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

“Let's not forget about our young heroes, whether as innovators in the food space, agri-technologists, (as I like to call them) or food entrepreneurs. Young people are shaping the future of the food industry, and we see it right here [at] Gulfood. In the UAE, we believe in the capabilities of our young people and really empower them to become our partners. Enhancing national food security and enabling our youth to actually contribute to come back to world hunger is a global obligation as well as a valuable opportunity,” she added.

She also highlighted that the world is off track to achieve Zero Hunger. A third of all food that is produced goes to waste; 800 million people are hungry, and a third of greenhouse gas emissions are coming from our current food systems.

Shedding light on foreseeable solutions, she added, “We in the UAE have developed a plan to transform our food systems. Remember, we are a water-scarce country, with less than five per cent of arable land, but our strength relies on our excellent logistics, infrastructure and our long standing and credible partnerships, as well as our appetite for innovations."

Communities encouraged to buy local

“Our strategy is we need to diversify food import sources, shorten our food supply chains where we can, and embrace innovations. All this is on the supply side. If we look on the demand side, we are really encouraging communities to buy local and eliminating, where possible, food loss and food waste. Here, innovation is key to make a difference, and business as usual is no longer an option.

Leveraging currently available technologies and introducing new ones will really accelerate the process in addition to eliminating food loss and food waste from every part of the supply chain. I emphasise this because we are a country that is still very high [in terms of] how much food loss and food waste we have per capita. So innovation is so important.”

She underlined that there is a need to adopt and adapt innovations to support better behaviour around food and transform food systems into more sustainable ones.

“The local shells or local parties has really grown over the years, and this is due to innovation. We can now grow a lot of produce that was not possible before all year round, with no chemicals and no pesticides. In fact, on some of the projects, you'll see ‘Do not wash’ because they're so clean and they're full of nutrients. The best thing is you open up the pack and it's fresh and it's so tasty.

Because we are a country that imports most of our food, we've lost a little bit of what things taste like, and so having a lot of these projects now grown locally, it is really a great experience,” says Al Mheiri.

Elaborating on how the UAE is engaging in cross-sectoral collaboration and exporting its knowledge to neighbouring countries she further notes, “We're also very keen to share the technologies that we have adapted to the UAE, and I'm very proud to see a lot of [local]companies who have adopted and adapted technologies –now exporting this to neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia as well, where the climatic conditions are very similar to what we have here.

So the year of sustainability and COP28 aim to solidify the commitments in addressing current challenges and promoting sustainable practices – and we have to do this not only on a government and private sector level, but also individually and on the community level.

Everyone has a role to play here. So it's really important that we roll up our sleeves and help the world get back on track to meeting Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger."


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