A draft law, that ensures the UAE has a strategic food reserve to be used in case of crisis, was passed by the Federal National Council on Tuesday.
Under the law, the Ministry of Economy — which will manage the National Food Reserve — will select a number of food retailers and suppliers across the country to store specific foods to be used in case of emergency.
Suppliers that fail to provide the agreed-upon food could face fines up to Dh5 million, according to the draft law that must still be approved by the UAE Cabinet.
While there have been individual food security efforts made in certain emirates, this law will establish and regulate a nationwide reserve.
“The new law covers the entire country, and co-ordinates between federal and local governments like ministries, municipalities and the National Crisis & Emergency Management Authority,” said Saeed Alaabdi, an FNC member for Ras Al Khaimah.
“It was necessary to introduce a law that would create co-operation between all the concerned government authorities and the food suppliers inside the country.
“There must be an overall umbrella for everyone involved to have better results.”
Once the law is issued, the ministry will create a database of suppliers and note the type and amount of food they must store.
The items should be stored for long periods of time and replaced on expiry.
“There should always be a standby stock,” said Mr Alaabdi.
“Inspection visits will be conducted to make sure each facility has the amounts it agreed to reserve.”
The companies involved may be offered incentives or facilitative procedures to store the food, according to the law, based on proposals made by the minister of economy.
Inspectors will periodically check the food to ensure it is being properly stored and is safe for consumption.
“Fines range based on the extent of the offence; one could be fined for not having reserved the right amount, or for not adhering to food safety standards, or if the product was not in good condition,” Mr Alaabdi told The National.
The penalties range between jail sentences and fines starting from Dh100,000 up to Dh5 million.
The UAE is taking precautionary measures to protect itself against any potential food shortages in the future.
Part of the country's plans to bolster food security is reducing food waste by 50 per cent over the next decade.
Local farmers are also exploring ways to grow food using less water — of which there is a shortage in the UAE.