Food consumption in the United Arab Emirates is estimated to grow by 4.2% from 2012-2017. Since the 1960’s the daily food energy consumption in the United Arab Emirates has nearly doubled. Today the daily diet per person is more than 3,100 calories, ranking among the top quarter in the world. Having a population of nearly 10 million people with a current growth rate of 2.6 %, the growing demand for food will increasingly influence the food security and food interdependence of the country.
Agricultural production in the UAE has expanded considerably through the increased use of wells and pumps to provide water for irrigation. However, the very dry and hot climate will intensify in the future and pose further challenges to the local agricultural sector. Only a marginal fraction of the UAE’s GDP is comprised by the agricultural sector employing less than one-tenth of the country’s workforce. Farms produce primarily date palms, fodder and vegetable crops.
Because of the lack of agricultural production, the UAE significantly depends on food imports. In fact, 83-100% of the food energy consumed in The UAE comes from crops that are not native to the region. Notable imports are wheat, rice and coconut. Wheat imports add up to 944,421 tons and USD 324,260,000. The UAE ranks 8th in world coconut imports, accounting for 23,234 tons and USD 11,937,000.
Ensuring that notable imports such as wheat and rice are able to adapt to the challenges that agriculture faces today and tomorrow is of the utmost importance, not only to the UAE, but also the world.
The UAE acceded to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) in 2004, joining 134 other contracting parties in the commitment to the global system for the conservation of crop diversity.
Data: FAOSTAT, CIA Factbook, World Bank, National Geographic
Image Credit: Lars Plougmann