Security and safety tops Middle East food agenda

Published March 28th, 2010 - 09:28 GMT

Region’s biggest agri-business trade fair opens today as Arab world looks for alternative strategies

Strategies to secure ready access to affordable, nutritious and safe for consumption food commodities is top of the agenda for Middle East governments, say the organisers of the region’s biggest agricultural business trade show opening today (Monday 29 March 2010) at the Dubai World Trade Centre.
“Many GCC countries are suffering from food shortages with the exception, in some cases, of fish and vegetables. The difference between what their farms produce and domestic consumer demand has increased considerably since 1990,” said Goutam Malhotra, Exhibition Manager, for organisers IIR Middle East.

 According to independent reports by the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development (AOAD), Arab countries can only produce between 30% and 50% of their cereal, wheat, barley and cooking oil needs. The difference between imports and exports of food products reached a record high of US$23 billion in 2008 to bring the cumulative amount of Arab food shortage to US$155.5 billion during 2000-2008.

“The UAE currently relies on imports for up to 85% of its food requirements which costs US$2.9 billion per annum and furthermore the GCC’s dependence on food imports had reached US$10 billion by the end of 2008,” commented Malhotra.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other arid Gulf countries have started to fund agricultural projects in Sudan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Pakistan and most recently Azerbaijan, indeed the UAE hopes to cease domestic wheat production altogether by 2016 in order to conserve water, Saudi Arabia has already looked at implementing a similar policy.

Indeed according to Australian Financial Review recently, Saudi is now already trying to buy wheat from Australia, in an effort to secure 2.5 million metric tons of supply. The Kingdom has already been importing significant amounts of grain from Canada for the last two years trying to satisfy domestic consumption.      

The UAE has resorted to a food security strategy of building a stockpile of 15 basic commodities. Speaking in December last year Sultan bin Saeed Minister of Economy said that the strategy would establish an early warning system for crises and disasters that may affect national food security in the country.


“The importance of events such as Agra Middle East is emphasised by the growing concerns over food security which is pushing countries in the Arabian Gulf to seek solutions to arid land problems,” said Malhotra.

Running for more than 10 years, Agra Middle East from 29-31 March 2010 is regarded as a must visit event by the agribusiness industry of the region. The show covers five closely linked sectors – agribusiness; poultry and livestock; fishing and aquaculture; floriculture and newly launched machinery and supplies.

Running alongside Agra Middle East is the region’s premier event for the veterinary profession - Vet Middle East. It brings together regional veterinary practitioners and public health officials with manufacturers and suppliers of products and services from pharmaceuticals to food supplements as well as the technological advances in veterinary healthcare.

“Both events provide a unique opportunity for regional and international companies to meet with prospective individuals and potential partners interested in exploring business relationships,” said Goutam Malhotra, Exhibition Manager for the two shows.

“Innovative solutions in the agriculture sector are in great demand in the region and Agra Middle East brings together leading decision makers in one place at one time and a series of free seminars by leading names in international agribusiness are expected to be heavily attended.

“Vet Middle East, meanwhile, with its own exhibition, provides an ideal platform to promote veterinary products as the Arabian passion for camels, falcons and horses, combined with the maturing domestic pet sector has led to massive industry growth across the region.”

A Vet Middle East conference will also feature sessions on equine and camel health; technological advances in the breeding of animals; genetic improvement of racing camels; new advances in veterinary care and therapies; and imaging, diagnostics and surgery.
AGRA Middle East is supported by the Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Flower Centre and sponsored by Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park. For more information about Agra Middle East, please visit
Vet Middle East is also sponsored by Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park and supported by Dubai Municipality. For full details of the event, please visit:  

Agra Middle East and VET Middle East are organised by IIR Middle East (, the largest trade and consumer event organisers in the region and part of the Informa Group plc (

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