Jaber Mohamed Al Shuaibi, Emirati Researcher in Geopolitical Issues
15 April 2020
Food shortage has long been problem giving rise to unrests in the communities. Countries of the world can be divided according to their food production into three categories: self-sufficient countries with no share in the global trade, countries with surplus agricultural production and countries whose agricultural production cannot fulfill the needs of their people. Both of the latter types of countries control the international trade of foodstuff, and these countries exclusively are affected adversely if the global stability is endangered. There is no doubt that the wide spread of Corona “COVID-19” pandemic all over the world has brought health and food sectors under the focus. This pandemic resulted in power imbalance, where no power is able to assume pivotal role to contain the crisis. These implications casted a shadow on the divisions in the positions of the major powers and the European Union, where some governments seized medical shipments, and the same scenario may be repeated with food shipments one day.
Despite the geographical nature of the United Arab Emirates, represented in the limited agriculture resources and the desert environment with the climatic change and rain scarcity, the UAE has long coasts bordering the Strait of Hormuz and Arab Gulf. The UAE’s wise leadership has made best use of this unique geographical location through investing over decades in outstanding infrastructure, huge ports, airports and road networks connecting the corners of the State to each other, as well as wide land ports with the GCC countries. The world suffered from navigational threats in the Strait of Hormuz, where the UAE witnessed in 2019 anonymous acts of sabotage targeted oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah port overlooking the Gulf of Oman. This scenario can be repeated with food supplies. However, the UAE ranked 21st among 113 countries in 2019 on the global food security index according to the measures of the population’s ability to purchase and food availability and quality. This emphasizes that the UAE has adopted successful foreign policy in diversifying the sources of food import and maintaining the safety of the sea lanes through joining the International Maritime Security coalition.
Moreover, the UAE was proactive in foreseeing the future, considering the food security profile as a national issue coming as a part of the ministerial agenda since 2017. The spread of COVID-19 pandemic and the previous global challenges regarding the population growth, water desalination and food wastage dilemma have deepened the crisis in the international foodstuff trade, where the outer psychological effects of the pandemic contributed to excessive procurement of food by some people, the matter led, in turn, to an increase in the prices of the non-essential goods. However, Allah granted the UAE exceptional leadership that considered food and medicine as red line that should be preserved. The UAE bets on its national cadres, recognizing that its sincere people are its safety valve. Moreover, the UAE’s investment in scientific research, innovation and modern technology of local agriculture and employing the national service workers in operating the foodstuff facilities, as well as enacting the Law of Strategic Stock provided opportunity to secure food for all people all the time. The UAE maintains adequate local strategic food stock, and it is, therefore, liable to minor risks. For the UAE, the agricultural sector is expected to represent large share in the UAE’s non-oil economy in the future. The UAE’s food production will be exported to the world and will contribute to the stability of sister and friend countries’ security.