Food insecurity issue presents a global threat that can have various features in different countries of the world and is induced by a number of factors dependent on region, socio-economic indicators, and others. The issue became an urgent challenge for Middle East and Mena nations before the rise of Covid-19, but significantly exacerbated by global supply chain disruption.
The situation is further aggravated globally by the emerging conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and Arab states including the UAE were no exception. GCC states with excessive reliance on the external imported supply and lack of food self-sufficiency increased food insecurity issues with clear influence on policy reports and think tanks’ observations.
UAE food insecurity has historically been challenged by a number of contributory factors such as rainless and drought ridden climate and scantiness of arable land. These kinds of geographical reasons caused significant dependence on the import of basic commodities and staple food items like wheat, rice, edible oil, pulses, sugar, cereals. Considering that only little part of the cultivated farmland is available and due to the decline in soil quality resulting from desertification, agricultural contribution to the country’s GDP is barely reaching 0.9 per cent. Another issue is that the country is one of the leading among GCC states by per capita food waste, approximately Dh6 billion per year.
UAE’s import dependent food security is now shifting towards implementing innovation-based food security measures and investments, especially considering the Covid 19 pandemic consequences, the country making significant efforts in meeting food sustainability and security goals. It can be seen laso as an outcome from launching National Food Security Strategy in 2017 where governments emphasized diversifying sources of food imports through partnerships and enhancing sustainable local food production. Range of measures also applied in the sphere of boosting local food production, investing in agritech, engaging regenerative and advanced farming tech and digitising the supply chain.
Author of the article is considering the role of Pakistan as one of the major trading partners of the MENA region, where trade turnover between two countries amounted $8.19 billion (Dh30 billion) in 2019.The UAE is also among the largest foreign investors in Pakistan mainly channelled to the gas, energy infrastructure, renewable energy, healthcare, biotechnology, agriculture technology, logistics, digital communications, e-commerce and financial services. Pakistan in its turn is the convenient point to deploy consistent supply of food items and others at minimum freight charges via the Gwadar Port, under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan is able to connect the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia for swift and cost-effective transportation of freight goods in the region.
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