The Middle East is blessed with rich minerals and hydrocarbons; the traits which have enabled the kings of this nation to build a powerful empire, which is draped in steel structures that reach the sky, buildings foiled in gold and expansive shopping arenas that defy the humble imaginations of other countries. Nevertheless, what they don’t have is water, which has led to an extreme water shortage and has contributed heavily to its social, demographic and economic problems.
Due to the shortage of water, it has become quite difficult for the government of the UAE to keep up with the increasing demand of food and the limited supply of food products, pushing them to import food whenever they deem possible. The arable land is limited and the weather is highly vulnerable and subject to extreme changes, which makes the UAE heavily dependent on the important of grains and other food items.
According to a food report published a few years ago by the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Egypt, Syria and Iraq were considered to be the top agricultural producers in the past but have suffered greatly due to mismanagement by the government, underinvestment and price ceilings. The report further stated, “Arab countries are the largest importers of cereal in the world. Most import at least 50% of the food calories they consume.”
This is one of the reasons the UAE is still encountering price spikes in the global food market. The main reason for that is a major competition for import of similar products and grains from Asian countries, where the incomes are becoming much better. UAE is threatening the wellbeing of states that are already living on the brink of mediocrity and these price hikes have caused adverse effects.
Food scarcity began in 2008 and was never really overcome. The rise of oil process and the increasing demand for food products by the growing world populations have led several Middle Eastern countries to fight for their survival, with the UAE at the forefront of it all. The steep price hikes in food products due to crops produced through alternate energy resources have triggered people to come out onto the streets in mass protests and have caused a condition of unrest in several countries.
Although the government of the UAE is covering up the scarcity of food with active delusion, the domestic agricultural conditions and lack of arable land is becoming quite apparent. What they have failed to understand is that food is at the apex of sustainable development and no matter how many gleaming skyscrapers they erect in their shining and deceptively perfect cities, they still need food resources to survive and exist.
Although, Abu Dhabi has initiated the Abu Dhabi Food Security Committee to determine ways in which they can bring about self-dependency maximize safety nets and strengthen the food supply through investing in Research and Development (R&D), they still fail to understand that R&D is a time consuming process. The urgency with which food scarcity is looming on the country should not to be taken lightly. The government officials have failed to take into account that R&D will require facts and figures that start from scratch and discredit any discoveries from the past, which will not be sufficient if the government is intent on finding the solution to the urgent food scarcity challenge that faces them.