21/10/2022 – Event / WUWM / Wholesale / Markets / Fresh Food / Conference / Abu Dhabi / UAE / Middle East
World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM)’s first Middle East conference opens doors in Abu Dhabi
High-level stakeholders from across the global fresh food industry, including more than 500 public and private sector leaders and experts from around the world, have arrived in Abu Dhabi for the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) Conference 2022, which is being held in the Middle East for the first time.
An international network of fresh food organisations, with 217 members working across 40 countries, the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM)’s goal is to ensure that people around the world have easy access to high-quality, healthy diets through a well-organised, safe, and sustainable food system.
H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, opened the event with an address that outlined the scale of the food security challenges facing the world, and promoted the significant contribution that the UAE is making to building national, regional and global food ecosystems.
“The UAE is pleased to welcome the WUWM Conference to Abu Dhabi, as the meeting will address some of the crucial issues that directly impact food security in the region and globally,” Her Excellency said. “This is a subject of the utmost importance to the nation’s wise leadership, and we are working with our partners in the private sector and the wider international community to collectively enhance food accessibility and availability.”
The meeting also featured an address from the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade, H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, who said: “About 23 per cent of the food produced around the world is traded across borders, meaning food supply chains are critical to both consumers and communities. The global pandemic underlined both the complexity and the fragility of the global food system, and this year’s WUWM puts the importance of building resilience into our farm-to-table infrastructures in the spotlight. As a nation that currently imports 90 per cent of our food needs, with an annual value of $25 billion, the UAE is keen to shape these conversations and ensure ideas, programs and policies are put in place to ensure supply can always meet demand.”
Developing innovation, infrastructure and connectivity
Moreover, the event included a Special Address from H.E. Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), who advised that “against a background of rapid regional and global changes, the emirate of Abu Dhabi has invested significantly in developing the innovation, infrastructure and connectivity that underpins the UAE’s national food security strategy. We are delighted to welcome the World Union of Wholesale Markets to Abu Dhabi and are eager to share key lessons around the role of fresh food markets in supporting community wellbeing and economic growth.”
Other keynote speakers at the event include Abdullah Humaid Al Hameli, CEO for Economic Cities & Free Zones at AD Ports Group; Stephane Layani, Chairman of World Union of Wholesale Markets, and Chairman & CEO of Rungis International; Qu Dongyu, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-Habitat.
“Bold new pathways” for the global fresh food system
Stephane Layani noted that the WUWM conference comes at a time when “food security has become one of the most pressing topics of Governments agendas, as the multi-layered crisis that we are facing highly increased the risk of food crisis and shortages around the world.” He described the conference as “a precious opportunity to find bold new pathways to tackle the most urgent challenges that global fresh food systems are undergoing, and to accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems”.
QU Dongyu advised that “collective action” is required to build resilience in fresh food supply chains, in order to better cope with environmental and other shocks and disruptions. “These actions must focus on protecting the stability of food production and supply; reducing impacts on the environment by reducing food loss and waste and using climate-friendly technologies and innovations that enhance supply chain efficiency; and ensuring food safety,” he stressed.
Making food security and safety a priority
Abdullah Al Hameli, CEO for Economic Cities & Free Zones at AD Ports Group – the host of WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022 – said his company was grateful for the tremendous support received from the UAE’s leadership, who have made food security a priority for the country. “We are actively working with partners across the region to build a secure and sustainable future food supply chain and will share our progress on the development of the Abu Dhabi Food Hub – KEZAD with our peers in the international community at the conference.”
UAE organisations participating in the event include Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA), Etihad Cargo and SILAL, while international companies include Compagnie Fruitière Group, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Hunts Point Produce Market and Califrais. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi is a destination partner, and Ghassan Aboud Group is a Strategic Partner of the event.
Meeting under the theme ‘Global Food Security in the XXIs: Risks, Challenges and Solutions to Ensure Resilient and Sustainable Fresh Food Supply Chains’, the conference supports industry leaders in working together on viable solutions to current concerns regarding the future of global food security.
WUWM Abu Dhabi 2022’s discussion programme began with an opening panel on ‘Cooperation and collaboration: Toward a collective approach to global food security challenges’. Highlighting the importance of building an urgent and co-ordinated response, the panel brought together a cross-section of industry leaders to discuss the current state of global fresh food systems and the challenges impacting it.
Sessions during the day continued the focus on developing and delivery of solutions, with panels dedicated to supply chain resilience, and to innovation. A ‘Supply Chain Resilience Panel’ analysed the benefits of localised systems to build resilience, while an ‘Innovation Panel’ examined the role digital technologies with the potential to revolutionise food systems by reducing waste, improving food safety, and by making production and transportation more efficient.
Afternoon Breakout Sessions included a series of interactive roundtables, including ‘Assessing the role of governments and multilateral bodies in fostering and promoting food system transformation’ and ‘Exploring infrastructure for the efficient and sustainable value chain in the 21st century’.
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