Trio of Ministers discuss ‘Grain Road’ as potential pathway to Multi-Continent food security
A potential new ‘Grain Road’ – stretching from Russia to Africa, via the Middle East – could also boost trade between East and West.
Top-level decision-makers share the stage at UAE-Russia-Africa Food Security Forum on sidelines of Gulfood 2019.
With food security concerns growing globally, food industry experts from the UAE, Russia and Africa have outlined how a new ‘Grain Road’ may help ensure effective food security for multiple continents during the landmark UAE-Russia-Africa Food Security Forum – the official precursor to the three-day Gulfood Innovation Summit.
As 5,000 global F&B producers converge on the 24th edition of the world’s largest food and beverage trade show to conduct mega trade deals, ministers from the UAE, Russia and Uganda met to explore how a ‘Grain Road’ linking the three continents can provide food security to a Middle East and Africa (MEA) region on track to reach a population of 2 billion by 2030, according to the 2019 Gulfood Global Industry Outlook.
Led by a high-profile trio comprising Mariam bint Mohammed AlMheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food Security; Sergey Levin, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Russian Federation; and Micheal Werikhe Kafabusa, Minister of State for Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda, the forum illustrated how a potential new ‘Grain Road’ – stretching from Russia to Africa, via the Middle East – could also boost trade between East and West.
Time to disrupt our approach to food
During her address, Minister AlMheiri told the Forum that the world is at critical junction and action must be taken to ensure a brighter, sustainable future. Citing data that highlighted how a third of global food production goes to waste, despite 800 million people going hungry every night, the food security pioneer said it was time to disrupt traditional food production and eating habits.
AlMheiri said the UAE – now ranked 31st on the Global Food Security Index – is leading the way on food security due to adopting new technologies and making use of government accelerator platforms to remove barriers in food production.
AlMheiri also pointed to the UAE’s development in the agritech sector, with a unified agritech licence and a national sustainable agritech code, adding such developments to enhance agribusiness could secure a win-win for all with countries pooling resources together to combat hunger.
Russia has a key role to play
Russia’s Deputy Agriculture Minister revealed his country is ready and willing to play its part in driving a secure food future, backed by a rapidly growing agribusiness.
“The ‘Wheat Corridor’ has huge agricultural potential for Russia and the rest of the world,” said Deputy Minister Sergey Levin. “Russian exports of agriculture products in 2018 reached USD26 Billion, including 55 million tonnes of grain. Our beef exports have grown by 30 per cent; fish and seafood by 23 per cent; we are making significant contributions in confectionary. In the Halal sector, our annual production has increased by more than 20 per cent annually.
“Russia is ready to meet the growing demands; our collaboration can open a new page. Our government has set an ambitious target of USD45 billion in exports by 2024, and Africa and the Gulf are key markets for us.”
Farmers and technology in focus
With the ‘Grain Road’ the topic of discussion, Ugandan Minister Kafabusa believes the cross-continent trade relationships will benefit nations and consumers outside of the UAE, Russia and Uganda.
“Uganda is known as for its good, fertile soils and there’s no application of fertilisers. We have grown up knowing only fresh food,” said Kafabusa. “Coffee is one of our leading exports; Uganda is the leading African exporter of bananas, we have 20 types. Through partnerships, we can ensure access to food across the world.”
“In Uganda, we can provide the land, ease of doing business, guarantees, stability. We can be the basket of food for the rest of the world,” he added. “But it’s not just about the quality of food, we must support the farmers. Farmers must be at the centre of food production, so government intervention and support is crucial.”
Gulfood 2019 is taking up more than 1,000,000 square feet with exhibitors vying for business with the latest F&B produce and concepts across eight primary market sectors. The show is a trade event open strictly to business and trade visitors and is open 11am-7pm from today until 20 February and 11am-5pm on 21 February.