UAE: Home to the world’s most sustainable city

| October 16, 2021 | 0 Comments
Pure Harvest is a recognized leader in sustainable agriculture, growing year-round, pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables in the Middle East. (Photo: Pure harvest smart farm)

Pure Harvest is a recognized leader in sustainable agriculture, growing year-round, pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables in the Middle East. (Photo: Pure harvest smart farm)

The United Arab Emirates marks its Golden Jubilee this year, and while we are proud of our many accomplishments over the last 50 years, we have always had our eye on the future.
Our country is already home to the world’s most sustainable city, where people move around in self-driving pod cars. We’re also building an authentic Mars city in our desert — while developing an actual one on the red planet within 100 years — and already our firefighters are using jetpacks and robot surgeons are performing operations. In short, we are always looking forward.
The roots of our current innovative culture are found within our environment and history. With our harsh desert climate that includes almost no rainfall, a limited supply of fresh water and sparse arable land, we have always had to innovate to survive.
From the earliest of times, we sought innovative solutions to gain access to food and water. In fact, more than 3,000 years ago, we developed the world’s earliest underground irrigation system, called “falaj,” and trained falcons to hunt for our food.
Today, the UAE enjoys economic and political stability, a strong currency, high, world-class logistics infrastructure and progressive food and water policies. It is also a food-secure country that serves as a global food logistics hub.
However, with our growing population — currently at approximately 10 million — our rising consumption needs, which are growing at a 4 per cent annual rate, and the fact that approximately 90 per cent of our food is imported, the UAE established a portfolio of a minister of state for food and water security.
Leading this ministry, Mariam bint Mohammed Al Mheiri has developed a comprehensive food security strategy to achieve year-round food self-sufficiency, increase our food nutritional level, reduce our food waste and contribute to global food security.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an invaluable time to take stock of our current food security policies and direction. Even during the height of the pandemic, we did not experience food shortages, we controlled food prices, and our food distribution systems ran extremely smoothly as a result of our government’s insightful policies.
While food supply chains may have been challenged around the world during the pandemic, we actually witnessed flourishing trade relations between the UAE and Canada. Overall bilateral trade between our two countries increased by 17 per cent in 2020 over 2019 to more than $2 billion, with the UAE continuing to stand as Canada’s No. 1 trading partner in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, with an additional $30 billion of UAE investment in Canada.
UAE agricultural imports from Canada alone saw a dramatic increase of 42 per cent in 2020 from the year prior, with the UAE importing almost $1 billion from Canada in this sector. Said in another way, this means agriculture made up almost half of the total bilateral trade between our two countries.
According to the Canola Council of Canada, canola seed exports alone from Canada to the UAE reached a record of $607.9 million (in 2020) making the UAE one of the top five global buyers of Canada’s canola seeds.

Food Tech Valley will be an integrated modern city that will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products in Dubai. (Photo: Albayan)

Food Tech Valley will be an integrated modern city that will serve as a hub for future clean tech-based food and agricultural products in Dubai. (Photo: Albayan)

Likewise, Saskatchewan-UAE total bilateral trade increased by 65 per cent in 2020 from 2019, also making the UAE Saskatchewan’s largest trading market in the MENA region, largely due to this robust trade in agriculture. To expand on these already strong relations, the government of Saskatchewan has announced it will open a trade office in the UAE in the fall of this year, with another Canadian province also expected to soon follow suit.
Turning to the transport systems that support this dynamic trade, it is interesting to note that even the logistics network to export Canadian products, such as Saskatchewan’s canola, is operated by DP World, a UAE company that manages four container handling facilities in B.C. alone (Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Nanaimo and Fraser Surrey Docks, the latter having been acquired in February of last year.) DP World also manages other ports across Canada.
DP World is one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world, with more than 75 terminals located in more than 40 countries. The company has won countless awards for being the world’s best and most efficient operator, including the 2020 prestigious Port Operator Award from Lloyd’s List, a company that records shipping traffic at the world’s major ports.
Yet another dynamic connection between DP World and Canada is the US $8.2-billion investment partnership between DP World and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), in ports and terminals worldwide. This joint investment was expanded by US $4.5 billion just last year from the original US $3.7-
billion agreement in 2016. This partnership has since grown to include a high-quality portfolio of 10 ports and terminals across the globe, including locations in Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Australia.
Above and beyond our strong ports infrastructure and management, the UAE is also a world leader in the aviation sector, serving as home to seven of the world’s top-ranked airports, and two internationally award-winning airlines — Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines, both of which offer direct flights between Toronto and the UAE.
Our strong infrastructure also allows for the efficient flow of goods, including more than 45 free trading zones in the UAE. They play a significant role in promoting an attractive business environment for entrepreneurs that offers economic freedom to investors such as a tax-free package and world-renowned facilities.
Outside of the free trading zones, the UAE also recently approved legislation that allows for full foreign company ownership within certain categories, including the agricultural sector, which will reduce costs for companies and further attract foreign entrepreneurs.
Canadian companies registered in the UAE are also eligible to apply for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund, a federal government fund worth US $545 million to finance innovation. This fund supports resident individuals and companies of all sizes registered in the UAE, provided they offer unique and innovative ideas.
Canadian firms setting up operations in our Emirate of Abu Dhabi can also receive support from the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), which enables opportunities for domestic and foreign investors aligned with Abu Dhabi’s economic priorities, including food security. Just in the last year, ADIO invested a total of US $142.95 million in seven AgTech companies.
Another economic advantage for Canadian companies located in the UAE comes from our geographic positioning. With one third of the world living within a four-hour flight of the UAE, and this connectivity reaching more than 3.2 billion consumers in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the world is at your fingertips when you have a presence in the UAE.
Drawing upon the UAE as an international gateway to the world, and always striving for excellence, we are now pushing the boundaries of discovery and building a new futuristic city where clean high-tech meets global food demands.
Food Tech Valley will be an integrated modern city that develops alternative proteins, creates drought-resistant crops and uses 3D technology and robots to help sustain food production, create superfoods and provide answers to global food challenges. It will help us achieve our National Food Security Strategy 2051 objectives, and it will support a diversified knowledge-based economy.
It will serve as a global destination, where we welcome Canadian researchers, entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts to lead us into the future of the food industry, with my government now taking expressions of interest from around the world.
This new smart city will host four main clusters: agricultural technology and engineering, a food innovation centre, R&D facilities and an advanced smart food logistics hub, with 60 per cent of the project’s space dedicated to vertical farming.
Bioengineering in aquaculture and hydroponics will be used to produce more than 300 varieties of crops. This will triple the UAE’s food production while improving our nutrition and reducing food waste in a world where approximately one third of all food is wasted.
Another exciting and historic opportunity for international collaboration within the agricultural and agritech sector is through EXPO Dubai, where global markets come together.
From Oct. 1 to March 31, 2022, the UAE will host EXPO Dubai, where Canada will join more than 190 other participating countries to showcase Canadian business and investment, research, academic and cultural sectors, among others. Those include opportunities for the agrifood and agritech sectors, such as Gulfood in February.
We look forward to working in collaboration with knowledgeable Canadian partners in the agricultural sector to further enhance our national food security strategy, not only for the UAE, but in support of a sustainable, healthy, equitable and prosperous future for the next generation of our global community.

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Category: Diplomatica

About the Author ()

Fahad Saeed Al Raqbani is the ambassador of United Arab Emirates. Reach him at or 613-565-7272.

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