UAE's Essa Al Ghurair investments imports between 5 and 6 million tonnes of grain each year, 40 percent of which come from Latin America
Food security begins with families at home taking steps to feed themselves and their community, according to Essa Abdulla Al Ghurair, the founder and chairman of Essa Al Ghurair Investments.
Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the recent Global Business Forum Latin American 2019 in Panama City, Al Ghurair said that he believes that UAE the UAE can ensure its own food security by “starting small”.
“You don’t need to build a very huge thing,” he said. “Start small and then scale it up. If it’s successful you can scale it up, but if it fails, then you fail in a small way.”
As an example, Al Ghurair highlighted the possibility of building small greenhouses at home that do not require electricity or pumps.
“It’s very simple. In your house you can put a small greenhouse and with that you can feed yourself or your neighbours,” he said.
“These are innovative ideas for sustainable communities,” he added. “Food security begins at home, and people will take care of it more because they don[‘t want to waste it. It’s not easy to grow [food], so wastage will come down.”
Speaking on a panel at the event, Al Ghurair said that each year his company imports between 5 and 6 million tonnes of grain, 40 percent of which comes from Latin American countries including Argentina and Brazil.
“Our country doesn’t have resources of water, so we rely on imports of grains and food from other countries,” he said. “[Because of this] countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have become closer to us.”
“We have to diversify our imports, in case one region gets hit by drought, as happened in Australia,” he added. “If we rely only on Australia, we’d have a shortage.”
In March, Abu Dhabi has pledged AED 5.6 billion ($1.52 billion) to support research and development revolving around water scarcity and food security.
Food security has been identified as a priority by the UAE’s government. Last year, UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi said that it is “one of the biggest challenges we will face in the future”.
To address the issue, the UAE – which imports approximately 90 percent of its food – hopes to boost local food production by 40 percent.