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Abu Dhabi forms new company to drive food security, production

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ADQ has announced the establishment of Silal, a new company in Abu Dhabi developed to diversify food sources and increase locally grown, raised and manufactured food.

The new entity complements the Abu Dhabi government’s efforts to secure food supply chains as well as to boost the supply and distribution of food in the Emirate.

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Designed to protect the overall food and agriculture sector and local farmers, Silal’s efforts include the management of offtake programmes and strategic food reserves.

Silal, meaning “baskets” in Arabic, will also implement knowledge-transfer programmes related to desert farming technology and other R&D projects to support an increase in local production of fruits and vegetables from small farmers in the UAE.

Jamal Salem Al Dhaheri

The company will be led by Jamal Salem Al Dhaheri who has been appointed as its CEO. He said: “Through a number of programmes and initiatives, Silal will facilitate sustained production, sourcing and distribution of essential foods in Abu Dhabi for the benefit of retailers, farmers and the community.”

Khalifa Sultan Al Suwaidi, chief investment officer at ADQ, said: “The creation of Silal helps to ensure that the UAE population has access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food at affordable prices. Silal also complements ADQ’s existing investments in the food and agriculture sector as we seek to expand this important economic cluster.”

Khalifa Sultan Al Suwaidi, chief investment officer at ADQ

Earlier this year, ADQ announced its acquisition of a 50 percent stake in Al Dahra Holding Company, a multi-national agribusiness specialising in animal feed and essential food commodities. Agthia and Al Foah, which produce a range of food and beverages, are also part of ADQ’s food and agriculture portfolio through Senaat.

The UAE has long recognised the importance of securing food supplies as a national priority. It produces nearly six million tonnes of food locally per year, reflecting its growing self-sufficiency in food production.

The announcement comes as Gulf policymakers are gearing up to increase domestic production as coronavirus continues to disrupt international supply lines.

The Gulf region, hamstrung by its unfavourable climate, scarce water, and limited arable land, imports around 85 percent of total food consumed, according to Alpen Capital’s GCC Food Report 2019.

Agritech – a catch-all term which covers improving the productivity and sustainability of agriculture, horticulture, aqua culture and forestry – could be key to supercharging the region’s domestic farming capabilities amid the pandemic and beyond, say experts.

In the five months since the Middle East’s first Covid-19 case was reported, Abu Dhabi has made several investments aimed at improving food security.

As well as ADQ’s investment, another government body entity, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, invested $100 million in four agritech companies to build facilities in the emirate, including indoor vertical farming firm AeroFarms.