Innovative Food Systems key to Tackling Global Food Crisis, say Experts

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Global conflict, supply chain disruptions, and the continued economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to keep global food prices at historically high levels until 2024, according to a recent market report from the World Bank.

Among the factors driving price inflation are record levels of food wastage, with up to 40% – 70% of fresh food in supply chains being damaged or wasted due to unfavourable storage conditions or poor handling. There has also been a reduction of farm labour capacity, leaving a significant volume of produce unpicked in fields after harvests, and 23 countries have implemented food export bans, with seven implementing export-limiting measures, as of August 2022.

As a result, policymakers, innovators, and international leaders are looking for new ways to reorganise supply chains to prioritise food security and ensure access to healthy diets.

The World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) Conference 2022, which will be held in the Middle East for the first time in October, will bring together government bodies with leading fresh food producers and wholesale market authorities to discuss key challenges and potential new approaches to bring food from farms to the table.

H.E. Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director General of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) said: “Under the wise leadership of the UAE, our nation has taken proactive steps to develop agile food supply chains and support technology-enabled food production. We are actively working with global partners to share key learnings and address the critical challenges facing global food supply chains today.”

ADAFSA is launching several initiatives that aim to boost local production and enhancing market accessibility and competitiveness for local products. These initiatives also look to encourage food and agricultural supportive industries, in addition to improving wholesale markets for livestock and other agricultural products.

UAE companies participating in the conference will discuss some of the major projects being undertaken to enhance access to fresh food and reduce wastage. AD Ports Group, which is developing one of the region’s largest food trading and logistics centres at KIZAD in Abu Dhabi, is also establishing an integrated food storage and distribution hub in Uzbekistan to enhance the nation’s food trade across global markets and drive Central Asian food security.

Abdullah Al Hameli, CEO, Economic Cities & Free Zones, AD Ports Group, said: “AD Ports Group is rapidly internationalising our expertise in developing food markets with all the supporting infrastructure necessary to ensure food security. As the host of the WUWM Conference in Abu Dhabi, we are looking to learn from our global partners about the different routes wholesale markets are taking to improve efficiency and ensure sufficient food supplies.”

Under the theme, “Global food security in the XXIs: Risks, challenges and solutions to ensure resilient and sustainable fresh food supply chains”, WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022 will be one most significant meetings of the global food industry held this year, building on the work of their 2021 conference which examined the food supply challenges in the post COVID-19 world.

Stephane Layani, WUWM Chairman, said: “The key aim of the conference is to find pathways to provide communities with balanced, healthy and nutritious diets, and to overcome the current challenges restricting access for a significant proportion of the global population. We have made good progress in recent years, but the current wave of global political and climate-related challenges risk pushing us back, particularly with the long tail impact of COVID-19. I am optimistic that, by bringing together key stakeholders in Abu Dhabi, we will be able to actively address the current issues and look ahead to a more stable, food secure future.”

Other topics set to be discussed at WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022 include logistics, the role of food hubs in ensuring healthy diets and the role of digitalisation.

The conference will take place from 19-20 October 2022 at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Early bird rates are available for delegates who book tickets before 16 September.

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