Dubai: The UAE has more than enough food stocks to meet the needs of the people even in the face of increased demand during Ramadan and the coronavirus pandemic, according to an official.

Omar Bushahab, Chairman of the Dubai Food Security Committee, told Gulf News, “The UAE maintains robust strategic long-term stocks of vital food commodities that are more than adequate to meet local demand during crisis situations.

Omar Bushabab, Chairman of the Dubai Food Security Committee
Image Credit: Supplied

“In response to the crisis, Dubai established a Food Security Committee to ensure the availability and accessibility of food for all residents of the Emirate,” he added.

Bushahab said that according to current estimates and studies, food stocks are enough to meet the UAE’s long-term needs.

“The government continues to exert efforts to ensure the availability of all food supplies. To maintain a sustainable flow, the government is keeping a close eye on the supply chain of food staples so as to take measures to mitigate risks of disruption in the availability or accessibility of key food staples.”

Concerted efforts are being made to maintain strategic stocks, continue strong local production and ensure the availability of food staples in close collaboration with the private sector across the supply chain, he added.

“Export and import of food and beverages are being closely monitored to identify any fluctuations in supply The numbers are stable, confirming Dubai’s ability to meet the average annual per capita consumption demand of 700-kgs.

“In addition, Dubai’s food factories have maintained their productivity levels. They are currently at a yearly capacity of around 9,700,000 tonnes of produced food, while beverage factories maintain a capacity of around 3,000,000 tonnes a year,” he said.

Does Ramadan demand affect this?

“The demand for certain daily essential commodities like rice, oil, vegetables, meat, and fish increases significantly,” he said. “Suppliers and retailers are well aware of changes in consumption during the month of Ramadan and have planned their supplies accordingly.”

On panic buying, he said, “The Committee also keeps a watch on buying patterns amongst the local community. This enables us to develop proactive measures and strategic plans to ensure food security even when faced with emergencies and challenges.

“It is important that consumers understand the importance of balanced food shopping habits. They should not buy more supplies than they need and waste food, especially since there are more than adequate stocks to meet demand in the coming months.

“We urge consumers to think about those most affected by the crisis and support efforts to help the needy during this Holy Month by donating food through official humanitarian channels,” he added.

As for food prices, he said, “the Committee has identified a list of main food commodities after studying the needs, demands, and purchasing patterns of residents. Based on this, Price Control sets a price ceiling and price floor for essential food commodities to ensure fair food pricing. The daily prices of essentials are monitored against the minimum and maximum prices set by Dubai’s Department of Economic Development. If they see unfair price increases, consumers are urged to complain through official government channels such as”

When it comes to sourcing food, he said, “Dubai is a regional trade hub, which means that we have an extensive network of international suppliers. This greatly supports our ability to maintain a robust food supply chain. Dubai’s imports for each staple come from a diverse set of sources.

“The Committee constantly explores opportunities to diversify food import sources while maintaining open-air import processes. Our strong well-established relationships with international markets allow us to open new streams of import for food supplies, such as importing fresh produce and livestock from Somalia, which can for instance compensate any possible interruption in supplies from India and Pakistan. Dubai Municipality and Dubai Customs also facilitate food supplies from alternate markets like Sudan and Oman while continuing to enhance strategic stocks and constantly monitor operations.”

Scenes from Dubai Waterfront Market post reopening
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Emirates response

Nabil Sultan Al Murr, divisional senior vice president – cargo, at Emirates SkyCargo, said, “Emirates SkyCargo has played an important role in bringing in food supplies into the UAE during these critical times. Between January and April of 2020, Emirates SkyCargo helped import more than 34,000 tons of food into the UAE, including more than 13,000 tons between March and April.

Emirates SkyCargo operates scheduled flights to close to 60 destinations globally on a weekly basis and this facilitates transportation of food items into the UAE from major production markets for perishables such as Australia, Egypt, India, Kenya, Pakistan and many others.”

Some of the food Emirates have helped import into the UAE between January and April 2020 include:

  • More than 5,200 tons of food from Australia including meat and fruits
  • Close to 2,500 tons of food from Egypt including fresh fruits and vegetables
  • More than 4,000 tons of food from India including fresh vegetables and fruits
  • More than 2,500 tons of food from Kenya including fresh fruits and meat
  • Close to 1,600 tons of salmon from Norway
  • Over 4,500 tons of food from Pakistan including meat, fish and vegetables

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