The Financial Times reports that in the four months since the Middle East’s first Covid-19 case was reported in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s wealthy capital, has made several investments all aimed at improving food security.
ADQ, an Abu Dhabi investment holding company, bought a 50 per cent stake in one of the region’s biggest agribusinesses, Al Dahra — which specialises in the cultivation of animal feed and production of rice, flour, fruits and vegetables — and already operates in more than 20 countries. It will now have the heft of one of the world’s richest states directly behind it.
Another sovereign entity, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, invested $100m in four agritech companies to build facilities in the emirate, including AeroFarms, a US-based group that plans to build a 90,000 square foot indoor vertical farm and research facility, touted as being the world’s largest of its kind.
Saudi Arabia, which imports about two-thirds of its food, has also been active. Salic, a food and livestock company owned by the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth vehicle, in May acquired a 30 per cent stake in Indian group Daawat Foods, as part of its strategy to secure rice supplies.
Last year, it invested £7m in British agritech firm Hummingbird Technologies, which employs drones, artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to produce high-resolution maps that can help farmers forecast crop stress, spot disease and weeds and predict yields.
“Food security should rank as high as defence — it doesn’t matter how many F-16s [fighter jets] you buy, if you can’t keep food on the shelves, you have bigger problems than defending borders,” says a UAE-based investor. “Before the [crisis the food security] ministry was about research, not implementation, but now it is writing cheques.”