The UAE's making sure there is enough food at the table – and that it isn't wasted

The UAE's new draft law places a further premium on food security and is taking the issue of food waste by the horns

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - HE Mariam Almheiri, Minister for Food Security and Mageed Yahia,  Director of WFP office in the UAE & Representative to the GCC trying a leftover food recipe at World Food Programme Stop the Waste campaign at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai.  Leslie Pableo for The National
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If a basic index of human security is having an adequate supply of food, the success of a country's governance lies in making sure its people receive this steady supply of reasonably priced food.

The UAE is then an example of how to bring the comfort of food security to its people.

The Federal National Council earlier this week  passed a draft law to strengthen the country's position on food reserves. Time and again, the UAE has emphasised its commitment to innovation and enhancement of its capabilities in the agricultural sector. It has taken steps to harness technology that propels the country towards increased self-sustenance.

An employee at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi prepares the leftover food from last Friday's brunch. Courtesy Jamal Al Breiki
An employee at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi prepares the leftover food from last Friday's brunch. Courtesy Jamal Al Breiki

All together, food security costs the country Dh13 billion annually. But factors that can imperil the country's food security vary from climate unpredictability to political instability in countries on which the UAE relies for the bulk of its food supplies. Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security believes, "Because the UAE imports 90 per cent of its food, food safety and security are the top priority."

Given these variables, a major priority for the UAE is to protect itself from ever running out of food. To safeguard against contingencies, the country is moving towards diversifying food import sources and by leaning on technology, ultimately relying more on its own produce.

In December 2019, the UAE climbed ten positions on the Global Food Security Index, moving from 31 in 2018 to 21 last year, overtaking among other countries, Italy, Spain and South Korea.

Besides advances in agricultural technology one of ten strategies launched early last year to enhance food security in the UAE was to encourage proposals from research centres, universities and companies across the world. The idea was to have them put forth feasible solutions to remove obstacles in the UAE's food value chain.

Such foresight is commendable as it widens the base of good ideas sought and increases the scope of implementing sustainable solutions.

Writing for The National in the build up to this year's Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Ms Al Mheiri said: "As UAE Minister of State for Food Security, it is my duty to ensure that the UAE's growing population is sufficiently fed and that the national food supply chain runs sustainably even during emergencies. This task will become all the more important as the population of the country is expected to grow to another million or so people over the next 20 years. "

But change has to also take place in related aspects of the same food cycle, such as cutting down food waste, recycling and composting. According to the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the annual global food waste costs in industrialised countries is $680 billion, its $310bn in developing countries and $3.5bn in the UAE.

It is important to bear in mind that while the country is on track to feed its burgeoning population and to bolster food security, responsibility to eliminate the wastage of food lies with the individual and begins with all of us. In an ideal world, there would be neither wastage of food nor shortage.