The food and beverage sector was one of six verticals specifically referenced by the plan, while making Dubai a centre for the global Islamic product market – including halal food – is one of the plan’s five main strategies.
Dubai’s logistics advantage
“With countries in the GCC region importing 70% of their food needs and registering an annual growth of more than 3%, Dubai can play a significant role in becoming a major hub for food products in the region. Dubai’s infrastructure, airports and ports, and logistical capabilities serve as drivers for the success of the F&B sector as it relies heavily on ease of access and speed of delivering raw materials and products,” said a statement from the office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.
Food distribution and production has become an increasingly critical policy area for GCC countries in recent years, following the widespread food price volatility and supply issues in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008 onwards. Most GCC governments have embarked on ambitious food security initiatives, although to date these have mostly consisted of procuring land or food production facilities overseas.
Current logistics and manufacturing hubs such as Dubai’s Jebel Ali port have been locked in fierce competition with other sites in the region when it comes to food and beverages. Ports and free zones such as Abu Dhabi’s Kizad or Oman’s Port Sohar have promised better facilities or lower costs compared to the crowded and expensive Jebel Ali – but the Dubai port remains a favourite for many businesses.
Call for agri innovations
Also in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi-based Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) has issued a call for submissions for its 2017 event. The GFIA features presentations from individuals or organisations with concepts for innovation in the agriculture sector, with the aim of improving food security in the region.
“We’re seeking applications from budding entrepreneurs, innovators and practically anyone who has an idea they think can challenge conventional methods of agricultural farming,” said GFIA event director Nicola Davison.
“We’re especially encouraging those from Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE community to come forward. Now is the time to share your ideas and innovations that can help farmers improve productivity in our region in a sustainable way and help to counter global hunger through pioneering developments in sustainable agriculture,” she added.
Submissions will be judged by a panel including representatives from Anterra Capital, McKinsey, the University of Wageningen, CGIAR and the University of Arizona. Submissions must be made online at www.innovationsinagriculture.com before 31 August 2016.