The UAE aims to boost the contribution of food and agriculture to its economy by $10 billion and create 20,000 jobs in the next five years amid measures to boost food security in the country, the Minister of Economy has said.

“With a growing population, food security assuming the highest priority, the UAE is doing well on this front and was on the top of the global food security index 2022 compared to other Mena counterparts, but the challenges for food in these uncertain times are real and present,” Abdulla bin Touq said during the Future Food Forum in Dubai.

However, he said the industry’s “resilience and adaptability” make it adept at addressing these challenges.

Mr bin Touq also unveiled seven key pillars to transform the food and agriculture sector with an emphasis on domestic innovation, a UAE-first culture and food supply chain, and giving farmers the necessary support and resources to make the country a global leader in agricultural technology and sustainability.

The first pillar seeks to ensure the next generation of agricultural disrupters is local through measures to nurture talent and innovation.

The second is related to making the Emirates a global regulatory powerhouse to ensure products are of a higher standard and are internationally recognised.

The third aims to promote a UAE-first culture across the entire food value chain by prioritising domestic production and reducing reliance on imports while the fourth focuses on providing sufficient funding to industry players.

“Access to funding is why people grow, industries evolve, and our strategy will look into securing funding and support,” Mr bin Touq said.

“This brings us to our fifth pillar of fostering innovation with world-class R&D [research and development] innovation, which is the cornerstone of progress. We will provide world-class research and development packages to inspire change.”

The UAE will also focus on enabling players to diversify and gain access to new markets by creating pathways for all agriculture players.

Finally, the strategy aims to build the next generation of farmers.

Tomatoes grown at a family farm in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is prioritising the growth of the food and agriculture sector to boost food security. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

The UAE aims to diversify its economy away from oil and is supporting the growth of various industries, including food and agriculture and other non-oil sectors.

The National Food Security Strategy 2051 aims to put the UAE at the top of the Global Food Security Index by 2051.

It sets out plans to develop a comprehensive national system based on enabling sustainable food production by using modern technology, while enhancing local production.

The UAE is considered one of the most important centres of global food logistics, and food products constitute a key part of its overall trade.

In 2022, trade in food products amounted to Dh130 billion ($35.4 billion), up 24 per cent from 2021.

Earlier this year, Emirates Development Bank, the state-owned lender that provides financing for the UAE’s priority sectors, introduced an AgTech loans programme, with plans to allocate Dh100 million in financing support for the country’s food security sector.

The initiative is aimed at boosting the national agriculture sector in line with the UAE’s plans to become a global leader in agricultural innovation, EDB said at the time.

It will target farmers, local producers, technology providers, equipment suppliers and those involved in the agriculture support ecosystem.

The programme offers green and brownfield project financing, capital expenditure and working capital financing, and medium-term loans or working capital amounts of up to Dh5 million with “competitive rates” and a long tenor of 10 years.

Updated: September 22, 2023, 4:28 PM

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