UAE considers cap on food prices as global crop costs reach six-year high

Food minister says government could place caps on chicken and milk

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - May 03, 2020: HE Mariam Mohamed Saeed Hareb Al Mehairi, UAE Minister of State for Food Security (R), delivers a lecture titled “ Nourishing the nation: Food Security in the UAE ”. The lecture was broadcast on Al Emarat Channel as part of the Ramadan lecture series of Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed. 

( Mohamed Al Hammadi / Ministry of Presidential Affairs )
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The UAE is considering price controls on some foods, as soaring crop prices affect countries around the world.

The government could impose price caps on chicken and milk, said Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security.

Global food prices climbed to the highest level in six years last month, according to a United Nations index.

The surge was driven by crops such as corn and soybeans, which are widely used to feed farm animals. That adds to food-inflation worries for nations already strained after the coronavirus pandemic upended supply chains.

"We are studying this very carefully and we may need some adjustments," Ms Al Mheiri said, while suggesting that adjustments could apply to local and imported products.

The potential move shows that even wealthy nations are not immune to inflation. The UAE, which imports 90 per cent of its food, already imposes controls on some essentials, which are often listed at supermarket entrances.

Ms Al Mheiri is pushing ahead with improving the UAE’s food security through technology, innovation and diversifying sources of imports.

The nation is encouraging local food production and investing in controlled-environment agriculture such as greenhouses, aquaculture and vertical farming, she said.

"We're being flooded with ... requests to start growing food in the desert," Ms Al Mheiri said.

“We’re now growing blueberries in the UAE, we’re growing quinoa, we’re growing salmon.”

The country, already a well-established logistics centre for Middle East and global trade, aims to become a major centre for food and agricultural technology, she said.

It is “very open” to lab-grown, or cell-based, meats and is assessing what regulations are required to allow for the sale of such products.

It also wants to cut food loss and waste by 15 per cent by the end of the year, and halve it by 2030, she said.

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