Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed calls for end to 'culture of excess' to safeguard food security

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the UAE must rein in its 'culture of excess' to ensure its food security strategy is a success.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces called for needless overspending and food waste to be tackled and the natural resources of the Emirates to be protected.

Speaking during a remote hosting of his Ramadan majlis, he said he believed the public would be receptive to the need to move away from an unwanted "habit".

Food security is a holistic ecosystem that pertains to not only food production, but also addresses the culture of handling food or the culture of rationalism and avoiding overuse and waste," said Sheikh Mohamed during a video conference in which Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, was also present.

"We have a habit of excess which we need to restrain. If this excess or overspending is for a good cause like charity is good and we support it but overspending for no reason is bad. This is a key part of the food security strategy - how to think of our various natural resources such as water, food sources, energy and others.

“As we talk about rationalism and eliminating overuse, I would like to thank you for your efforts in educating people, because as you know, brothers and sisters, it is a cultural habit – one that comes from traditions which is hard to move away from without some challenges.

"We want to part ways with such traditions which are not useful to us and not Islamic as well. This requires work in homes, schools and through different media outlets to raise awareness.

"UAE citizens and residents are very receptive and responsive. We can raise awareness about this issue to our people in the UAE and we will witness change very quickly."

Titled Nourishing the Nation: Food Security in the UAE, the majlis gave insight into the measures being taken by the ministry to tackle the challenges posed to food security by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“The UAE at this time was not and will not be affected whether it’s the local produce, the stockpile or the imports," said the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince.

Sheikh Mohamed said the country is passing the test served up by an outbreak impacting on the lives of billions of people all over the globe.

He said the UAE is playing a key role in supporting other nations by delivering essential aid.

“Coronavirus was a test and I would like to stress in front of the others, that it was a test for you (Ms Al Mheiri) specifically in terms of food and we passed it due to your plans and your level of readiness.

"Surely, there might be some shortages but you are feeding a country, a nation of nearly ten million people without noticeable change.

"Some countries were impacted, we wish them well and sympathise with them and that is why you saw how your country, the UAE, rushed to send them aid.

"The UAE sent aid to nearly ten countries every week. It is our duty towards our brothers, allies and friends as we see some countries in a difficult situation."

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, reviews the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic during the Ramadan Majlis. Mohamed Al Hammadi/ Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Ms Almheri said the Emirates has taken robust steps to ensure it has ample food supplies, including setting up the Emirates Food Security Council to help co-ordinate a national effort.

“As soon as the global pandemic hit, the council held an extraordinary meeting to develop an early mechanism system to monitor food imports and local food production capacity potential. The council also connected with the Food Security Alliance companies in the UAE to best prepare for all scenarios,” she said.

“In a way, going through this crisis is testing whether we have set up robust systems. And it has shown that this strategy has set the right foundation to be able to overcome this crisis.

“We get our food through imports and local production but because of the harsh environment we import large amounts of our food.”

She said many do not realise that the UAE grows much food.

Last month it was revealed that close to six million tonnes of food is now produced in the UAE each year, reflecting a growing shift away from a dependence on imported goods.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, added that supermarkets and food markets in Abu Dhabi will now provide a dedicated section to promote and sell locally grown produce to encourage production and sales.

Updated: May 6, 2020 09:58 PM

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