Engro Fertilizers, a subsidiary of Pakistan’s leading conglomerate, the Engro Corporation, hosted an insightful panel discussion on regional food security and agricultural partnership opportunities with Pakistan at the Dubai Expo 2020.
The panel highlighted the leading and visionary role of Gulf states, particularly the UAE, to secure the entire region’s food security. Food insecurity in the MENA is a growing challenge as in 2020, MENA’s share of the world’s acutely food insecure people was 20%, disproportionately high compared to its 6% share of the population.
The situation is worse where there is conflict, such as in Yemen and Syria. Iraq has also seen a rise in food insecurity, caused by intermittent conflict and fluctuating global oil prices.
Climate change was highlighted as the biggest and foremost challenge affecting local agriculture, with half of the MENA population already living under water-stressed conditions. Meanwhile, agriculture productivity rates are not keeping up with population increase, except for Egypt, where productivity gains are above the world average.
Further, the region is exceptionally dependent on food imports, especially of wheat and other staple grains. Half of MENA’s food is imported, rising to 90% in Gulf Cooperation Countries.
Experts noted that by forging partnerships in the agricultural sector with resource-rich countries, like Pakistan, the region can benefit from enhanced agricultural output to overcome its food security challenge. With a greater focus on modern agricultural research and technology, seed quality, balanced use of fertilizers, and uplift of infrastructure across the agri-value chain, Pakistan can enhance production to meet its own domestic and the Gulf-region needs.
According to Nadir Qureshi, CEO of Engro Fertilizers, “We have a vision and belief that developing Pakistan’s agriculture value chain could resolve not only Pakistan’s, but also the GCC regions food security needs. We hope that this dialogue will serve as an initial step to encourage Pakistan, Engro and Gulf entities to work together to jointly develop innovative solutions and explore the scope for international partnerships in agri-space. We look forward to playing our part to deepening the connect between the two regions to help solve one of the most pressing issues of our time.”
Other solutions offered to improve food security in MENA region include boosting the efficiency of importing food and storage, investing in cutting-edge practices and technologies, and developing novel financial models to leverage private investment in agriculture.
The panel concluded that with the right leadership and vision, the MENA can overcome its precarious food security situation. The panel was hopeful that the Gulf leadership would pave the way through innovative solutions.
The esteemed panel comprised global agricultural and industry experts including Dr. Abdul Rashid (IFA Laureate), Charles Schneider (International Finance Corporation), Ayman Alwadhy (The Corporate Group, UAE), Wasim Halabi (Foodco National Foodstuff Co PJSC), Fredric Favre (MAS Seeds, France), Khusrau Nadir Gilani (Engro Fertilizers) and Dr. Munir Jamil Al Rusan (Professor and Dean at Jordan University of Science and Technology).