Monday 30th January (ZAWYA) – The conference gathered high-level panellists and prominent professionals from Qatar’s food and agricultural sectors to discuss issues in the global food supply chain, water scarcity and its impact on Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and pathways to achieving food security in the region.
The panel featured Hamad Hadi Al-Hajri, Deputy Director of the Food Security Department at the Qatar Ministry of Municipality; Wafaa AlSaffar, Environment, Social and Governance Director at Baladna Food Industries; Bjoern Witte, the CEO of impact investment firm Blue Horizon Group; Jamie Burrows, Founder and CEO of vertical farming technology and R&D company, Vertical Future. The panel was moderated by Ahmed Helal, Director of Global Counsel’s MENA practice.
Commenting on Qatar’s vision for food security, Mr. Hamad Hadi Al-Hajri said: “The national food security strategy aims to improve Qatar’s self-sufficiency rates across a range of key food categories by utilising the advanced technologies, suitable to our unique climate in Qatar and the GCC, to improve our agricultural practices. These have allowed our food system to become more sustainable and adaptive to climate change risks in addition to becoming more resilient to external shocks, helping us reduce import dependency and preserve natural resources like water reserves and soil quality.”
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is both the most water-scarce in the world and also one of the most dependent on food imports. The ongoing global food crisis can be felt acutely in the region, owing to disruptions to the supply of key food staples and soaring food prices. Speakers discussed the role that technology can play in addressing the causes of food insecurity in the MENA region.
“Increasing water scarcity is a huge issue that demands serious attention. We look forward to working with multiple partners to not only confront this, but to also contribute to the building of a resilient, future-proofed food system, addressing food security and the Qatari government’s strategic goals, making it a leader in the region. As a leading vertical farming technology and R&D company with a focus on Qatar and the wider MENA region, it was important for Vertical Future to have a seat at the table for this discussion”, commented Jamie Burrows.
In her comments on the panel, Wafaa AlSaffar also highlighted the importance of water security in Qatar, emphasising how investing in new technology can increase efficiency and reduce consumption. . Baladna’s commitment to sustainability is to create a long-lasting difference in Qatar. The holistic approach to reuse treated wastewater is a key development for our company’s sustainable goals, and we are enthusiastic to be at the tip of technological breakthrough for the best interest of our products and consumers.”
Discussing the role of technology in food security, Bjoern Witte added, “Food tech is tech, so needs higher margin niches to start in before it scales and transforms commodity markets. We see this within the meat space – from Wagyu beef at high-end restaurants all the way to Burger King. As technologies like plant cell culture scale, it is not unimaginable that they would help grow staple crops as well, largely independent from environmental conditions. Qatar will be benefiting from developments in that space also in the light of food security.”
The event was part of Global Counsel’s international ‘Politics of Food’ conference series, with events in Washington, DC, London and Brussels, featuring top policymakers, corporate CEOs and NGO spokespeople. Global Counsel is a strategic advisory firm that supports international investors, corporates, and government agencies on high-value investment decisions and business development in the region.
Read the press release on Zawya here.