Coronavirus: UAE urges against food export restrictions at G20 meeting

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A senior United Arab Emirates food official urged countries to work together to maintain global food supply chains as coronavirus lockdowns disrupt the food and agriculture industry across the world.

“The coronavirus crisis is a wake-up call for the whole world - joint action and solidarity are what is needed at this time,” Minister of State for Food Security Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri said at a virtual meeting of Group of 20 agriculture and food ministers.

International food supply chains were facing “serious disruptions,” she said.

Countries should follow the recommendations of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture organization and the World Trade organization on avoiding restricting food exports, she added.

The Gulf states are dependent on food imports for between 80 percent to 90 percent of their local demand.

A merchant selling wheat seeds in a shop of Cairo, on June 27, 2019. (File photo: AFP)
A merchant selling wheat seeds in a shop of Cairo, on June 27, 2019. (File photo: AFP)

Across the Middle East, major food importers from Egypt to Iraq have said that they would increase strategic reserves of vital food supplies amidst concerns that lockdown measures would slow supply chains and exporters would curb their sales.

Staple grain supplies are plentiful globally but some producing countries have indicated they would limit their sales abroad to prioritize domestic supply.

Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, said last week it would suspend grain exports to July 1 once an export quota it had set of 7 million tons was exhausted, an event now likely to happen in mid-May.

If Russia’s quota is depleted by that date it could upend Egypt’s purchases made last week.

The world’s largest buyer of the grain booked 180,000 tons of Russian wheat in two purchasing tenders in its quest to up its reserves.

Saudi Arabia’s minister for environment, water and agriculture, Abdulrahman al-Fadhli, said his country would work with other states and organizations to make sure food supply chains remained resilient as the battle against COVID-19 continues, the ministry said.

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