Future Food Forum calls for public-private collaboration

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Abdulla Al Saleh delivers the opening address at the Future Food Forum on Wednesday in Dubai.

Sajjad Ahmad, Deputy Business Editor

The third edition of the Future Food Forum, kicked off on Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Dubai deliberating on key initiatives taken by the food and beverage sector in ensuring future sustainability and food security.

The event, organised and hosted by the UAE Food & Beverage Manufacturers Business Group in strategic partnership with Dubai Chamber and Food Tech Valley, featured key government officials and business leaders discussing strategies to transform the future of the UAE’s food and beverage manufacturing sector.  Abdulla Al Saleh, Undersecretary, Ministry of Economy UAE delivered the opening address underlining the need for the UAE to improve local food production and technology adoption in the sector. He said that the UAE is the world’s second-largest reexport market for agriculture and processed food in the world after the US and plays a vital role in maintaining food and agricultural supply in the region. Home to many nationalities, the country has a large number of supermarkets and retail chains supplying a diverse range of F&B commodities.

“This forum happens at an opportune time when the industry as a whole is talking about reinventing the supply chain. The UAE has always believed in The importance of trade in enhancing the sustainability, growth and resilience of the global economy. Our strategies’ primary focus must be on promoting investments in local production establishing a resilient logistic network, cutting down food wastage and promoting technology integration in food production,” he said.

He added: “To achieve our food security goal, the UAE has adopted the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) model. Under the programme, the UAE has so far concluded three CEPAs with India, Indonesia and Israel and is in talks with several other target markets.  However, timely engagement of stakeholders is also critical to ensure maximum benefits for all and to ensure the overall success of this effort. Emphasis must also be placed on the transformation of technological knowledge and local SME sector capacity building. I am confident that these concerted efforts will lead to the UAE becoming resilient by protecting the country from supply chain disruptions and global crises. In addition, the shift to a local and regional supply chain will also reduce environmental impact through shorter transportation times.”

Welcoming the delegates, Saleh Lootah, Chairman of the UAE F&B Manufacturers Group, said: “We are honoured to host the third edition of the Future Food Forum, which puts the spotlight on the fast-evolving F&B manufacturing industry. We have learned a great deal from the challenges of the pandemic and climate change that have disrupted the food chain in recent years. Today we know that the key to the progress of the F&B sector lies in the collaboration between the F&B sector, regulators and academia. With the Future Food Forum, we aim to provide deep insights into the value of innovation, sustainability and digitalisation, knowledge sharing and a platform for collaboration to transform the F&B sector and pave the way for a sustainable future.”

Jack McCluskey, Marketing Manager, of FoodTech Valley, said, “Global food manufacturers and agricultural producers have come under increasing pressure from rising demand, forcing them to shift their focus from capacity to greater efficiency and self-sufficiency in the UAE. The industry is undergoing a profound transformation as new policies have been introduced in response to population growth and climate change. To increase local production and minimise environmental impact, the UAE is investing in cutting-edge food production techniques such as vertical farming, smart irrigation, aquaponics and more. In addition, advanced technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) offer new opportunities for the F&B sector to build a self-sufficient and robust food supply chain.”

“The planet’s resources need to be protected and restored, which requires transformative change. That’s why we are working with our food system partners to advance regenerative farming practices that include promoting biodiversity, conserving soils, restoring water cycles and integrating livestock. At Nestlé, we have pledged to advance regenerative food systems at scale to protect, renew and restore the environment, improve farmers’ livelihoods and enhance the well-being of communities,” said Yasmine Berber, Head of Sustainability at Nestlé MENA.

More than 600 industry leaders are attending the two-day event, which features high-level keynote addresses, in-depth panel discussions, and ‘lightning talk’ sessions that cover diverse aspects of the F&B manufacturing value chain. The core themes being discussed include the value-add of digitalisation, sustainability considerations, the role of innovation and the need to promote a culture of inclusiveness to mark the transformation of the industry.

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