Investment in domestic agriculture is critical to maintaining the UAE's food supplies, the Minister of Economy said yesterday.
Sultan al Mansouri said the Emirates imported more that 85 per cent of its food, a level he said was unsustainable given the growing strain on world food supplies.
"Because of our food requirements, [home-grown food] becomes a strategically important issue, not only for us, but the GCC and the world," he said.
The minister's comments came a day after the international charity Oxfam described the world's food system as "broken" and called for a radical overhaul of commodities speculation.
The charity said strong action was required by developed and emerging economies to prevent a doubling of basic food prices and mass starvation within the next two decades.
"Our policy is to be involved; it is critical to us," Mr al Mansouri said.
The Government launched a campaign last week, in partnership with major retailers, to lower the prices of 400 basic foods across the Emirates in a bid to contain inflation.
The price-control scheme will last for six months and involves more than 70 outlets in the UAE, including stores operated by Carrefour, Lulu and Spinneys.
Increasing populations, higher oil prices, climate change and commodities speculation are being blamed for global increases in food prices.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's food price index continued at high levels in April, up 36 per cent from the same period last year.
Mr al Mansouri said the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protectionwas trying to address the issue of some retailers and suppliers increasing prices without valid reasons. In one instance, the committee discovered the price of rice had fallen in exporting countries but that retailers had increased the price in the UAE, Mr al Mansouri said.
"What happens sometimes is the retailers want to escalate the price in a way that could be damaging to the economy, and if there is no reason behind the rise of price, we have the full authority by law to call on these suppliers and make sure they are behaving [responsibly]," he said.
Despite importing much of its food, the UAE does produce a range of food locally, including tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers.
But local production is not sufficient to meet the needs of the population.
The Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre was launched last summer to provide small farms with expertise, technology and access to the market.