First-Ever Global Business Forum ASEAN Examines Changing Dynamics of Food Security

Dubai, UAE – An expert panel on day two of the first-ever Global Business Forum (GBF) ASEAN – a dedicated conference that focuses on trade and commerce between Dubai and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – turned its attention to food security, discussing how agricultural technology – ‘ag-tech’ – is advancing food security goals in both regions and creating prospects for greater cooperation.

Titled: ‘Securing the Food Supply,’ the session brought together H.E. William D. Dar, Secretary for Agriculture in the Philippines and Soeng Sopha, General Manager at Sela Pepper in Cambodia who both joined remotely, with Sky Kurtz, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer at Pure Harvest in the UAE, taking part in person.

H.E Dar underlined inter-regional collaboration as an important factor in securing the food supply. “Greater regional cooperation is needed, which allows us to address numerous issues such as rising global food prices caused by increased pressure and rising costs of fertilisers, among other resources. This kind of cooperation allows for the integration of practices native to each region or country. We are working to leverage our food production capabilities to become a provider of raw materials in the sector and help ensure economies of scale, resulting in lower food prices,” he said.

The panellists were on the same page when it came to the great potential that technology has in the sector, with Secretary Dar asserting that the Philippines agriculture sector was breaking away from traditional mindsets. “Our strategy is to use science and technology to ramp up agricultural activity, and to that end, investment and support for the sector is needed and must be prioritised,” he noted.

For his part, Sky Kurtz agreed with the need for collaboration, as his company gears up to open its first regional office in Singapore. “The ASEAN region includes huge markets that we look forward to accessing,” he noted. “However, the food system also requires materials such as steel, glass and aluminium – all areas where the GCC excels. We developed our product here in the UAE – one of the hottest and most humid places in the world. We designed the system so that if it can work here, it can work anywhere.”

“Solutions like ours help ensure food security and water conservation and in the UAE, we have had great support from Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment who was Minister of State for Food and Water Security previously,” he added.

Sopha Soeng, for her part, reiterated the need to further utilise science and technology in the sector, saying: “To upscale [our operations], we need science and technology. Science can allow us to improve irrigation system and harvest crops twice a year in some instances.”

Soeng noted that one of the leading challenges for exchanging food products globally is the need to adhere with various sets of standards. “We must adhere to food quality standards and we have succeeded in complying with so many of them even though they are different in various countries around the world,” she stressed.

Organised on December 8-9 by Dubai Chamber in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, the two-day GBF ASEAN was held under the theme ‘The New Frontiers.’

The event examined the wealth of bilateral business opportunities that exist between the UAE and the 10-member ASEAN region as the world progressively emerges from the global pandemic.

GBF ASEAN forms part of Dubai Chamber’s flagship Global Business Forum series, which was launched in 2013 to provide Dubai’s business community with new opportunities and strengthen the emirate’s position as a global business hub, a dynamic centre of commerce, and a gateway to lucrative new markets.