Dubai: Ireland can help the UAE and the entire GCC tackle its food security challenges, according to Simon Coveney, Minister, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland.
Coveney talked at the Country Focus Briefing Ireland 2013 organised yesterday by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in association with Enterprise Ireland and Embassy of Ireland.
“The Gulf region is a hugely important export destination for Irish agriculture food exports valued at €311 million in 2012.”
He added that the UAE currently imports approximately 90 per cent of what it consumes. However, the county has a growing population as well as the entire region is severely challenged by extreme climatic conditions and a scarcity of water.
“The Gulf region faces food security challenges and needs certainty of supply and diversification from individual suppliers and Ireland will be able to provide sustainable food supply.”
Ireland has significant advantages in food production because of climate and soil and will be able to produce enough for 50 million people, he added. “We export over 85 per cent of what we produce, to over 170 countries. We are extremely vigilant in enforcing our food safety controls.”
Ireland will be helpful for the UAE and GCC countries not only in food supplies but by providing the expertise which the Gulf requires to improve its own agriculture production, he added.
Ireland has an ambitious plans in the agri-food sector, set out in its Food Harvest 2020 plan, including a 50 per cent increase in dairy production and a major increase in production of meat.
The Gulf will play a significant role as an export market for this increased production, and provide for a strategic partnership with Ireland.
He called upon UAE businesses to invest in the Irish agri-foods, drinks, seafood and food ingredients sector, produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Last year, Dubai’s non-oil trade with Ireland reached Dh1.9 billion, making Ireland Dubai’s 64th largest trade partner. At present, the emirate has 175 Irish companies among its members, which are supported by the Irish Business Council.
Ireland is abundant in high quality agri-products, said Hisham Abdullah Al Shirawi, second Vice Chairman, Dubai Chamber. He called upon Dubai businesses to explore Ireland’s rich agricultural market to meet the UAE and the region’s food requirement and security.
“Today, we are bridging the relation between the two countries allowing both private and public sectors to invest in a healthy business environment,” he added.