India-UAE Food Dialogue explores prospects for boosting food security cooperation

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Increasing cooperation between the UAE and India on food security and the UAE-India Food Corridor are two major factors expected to expand bilateral trade and investment in the future, said industry experts speaking at the India-UAE Food Dialogue.

The virtual event, recently co-organized by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Mumbai office and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on the sidelines of India International Food & Agri Week, was attended by 310 participants from India, the UAE and other markets, including businessmen, industry stakeholders and policymakers.

Speakers and panelists participating in the event included KKM Kutty, co-chair, CII Gulf Committee & former chairman, CII (SR) & chairman, South West Group; Omar Khan, director – international offices at Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Ahmad Sultan Al Falahi, commercial attaché; Rajeev Arora, second secretary, Embassy of India, Abu Dhabi; Piruz Khambatta, chairman-CII National Committee on Special Abilities and CII Task Force on Ease of Doing Business & chairman & managing director, Rasna International; and Abdulla Bin Damithan, chief commercial officer, DP World

Also participating were Chandranath Dey, head – industrial operations & business development, industrial services India, JLL; Geemon Korah, Convenor, CII Kerala Agri & Food Processing Panel and executive director & CEO, Kancor Ingredients Ltd; Ambuj Chaturvedi, managing director, Nandvan Mega Food Park; Paul Boots, head of business development, Dubai Global Connect Project; Sanjeev Dutta, executive director – commodities, DMCC; Jayen Mehta, senior general manager of planning & marketing at GCMMF(Amul); and Mudasir Tak, commercial director, Elite Agro LLC.

Presentations and discussions during the event examined the strengthening economic partnership between the UAE and India and the growing importance of food security to the UAE’s strategic vision, while panelists said India has a lot to contribute in this area as the country is on its way to becoming the world’s food basket.

Commenting on the investment potential for infrastructure, logistics and sourcing for the UAE-India Food Corridor, industry experts revealed that the UAE–India Food Corridor project is expected to see investments of $7 billion from the UAE in developing dedicated logistics infrastructure connecting farms to ports in India, adding that the initiative has the potential to triple India-UAE food trade over the next five years.

Omar Khan said the India-UAE Food Dialogue offered participants valuable insights on UAE-India trade ties, which have evolved and strengthened after the two countries announced a comprehensive strategic partnership — a move that has paved the way for increased cooperation across several industries and fields.

Given the changing trade dynamics and disruptions to global supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Khan noted that it is crucial that the UAE and India collaborate to enhance food security, and noted the UAE-India Food Corridor would be a key joint initiative that would take UAE-India relations to the next level and significantly boost bilateral non-oil trade well beyond the AED152 billion accounted for in 2019.

As a preferred trade hub for Indian businesses, Dubai can unlock this potential as it offers several competitive advances, such as its world-class logistics and transport infrastructure, as well as a strategic geographic position enabling Indian food exporters to expand their reach across GCC markets.

Khan added that Dubai Chamber’s representative office in India is playing a crucial role in building bridges of cooperation between the UAE and Indian business communities, and added that food security will remain a key area where companies can forge bilateral partnerships in the future.

Al Falahi highlighted that food wastage in India is valued at staggering $12.5 billion and a strong logistics infrastructure for farm to port can be a huge enabler in reducing food waste. UAE can step-in and form meaningful collaborations with India on that front.

Piruz Khambatta shared his insights on other major initiatives in the pipeline that aim to boost India’s food trade, including new bills introduced to empower the farmers in India by giving them a direct access to market, the Self-reliant India initiative packages providing benefits, subsidies and low-interest loans for the food sector.

Khambatta noted that logistics costs remain a key challenge for traders of fresh fruits and vegetables within India, however, added that planned infrastructure enhancements are expected to reduce the time and costs associated with food transportation. — SG

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