The Strategic Food Stockpile

There is a strong interest among nations of the world to have a strategic stockpile of food commodities. This stockpile is to be used in times of emergency or other unpredictable need such as a natural disaster, a sudden drop in domestic or global production, international political change, a disruption in a supply chain, or a blockade during wartime. The aim of having a strategic stockpile is to sustain a country as long as possible during an emergency. Although most people automatically think of a commodity stockpile in terms of foodstuff, the strategic stockpile has, however, been expanded to cover a wide range of commodities other than foodstuff such as energy, communication devices, and weapons.

The UAE places the matter of the strategic food stockpile at the top of its national agenda. This is in line with the wise leadership’s efforts to consolidate the nation’s food security. In this context, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE (may God protect him), has approved Federal Law No. 3 of 2020 regarding the regulation of the strategic stock of food commodities in the country, which is aimed at organising the food supplies in the event of crises, emergencies, and disasters, as well as achieving food sustainability. The law, whose provisions apply to the supplier and the registered merchant, outlines several requirements for implementing its procedures. It also specifies the powers of the Ministry of Economy to implement the provisions of the law. The ministry has jurisdiction to propose policies, plans, and programs of the strategic food stockpile, in coordination with the competent authorities, to be then submitted to the UAE Cabinet for approval. Furthermore, the Ministry has the power to coordinate with multinational economic committees regarding the strategic food stockpile programs. It also organizes plans and programs to determine the volume and quantity of strategic food stock needed in case of high demand for foodstuff in the country.

The approval of Federal Law No. 3 of 2020 is a clear signal that food security is a top priority to the wise leadership. Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, confirmed that the UAE has always been proactive in introducing laws that aim at building a sustainable future for current and coming generations. This includes providing a healthy and secure food supply for all members of society at all times and under all circumstances, even during emergencies and crises. At the same time, this law enhances the status of the UAE as an international hub for food security and presents an important step towards achieving the objectives of the national food security strategy.

Undoubtedly, the timing of Federal Law No. 3 of 2020, which was approved by the Federal National Council (FNC) on February 18th of this year, is of great significance considering the current global concerns about food security. Some governments, due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, are examining the possibility of restricting the flow of basic food commodities. This comes as the entire world is considering imposing a general lockdown to address the pandemic, which is turning the world countries into isolated islands.

In conclusion, the issuance of this law enhances our food security, maintains market stability, and conveys a number of important messages. First, it keeps the provision of the strategic food stockpile in accordance with the highest international standards. Second, it assures consumers that the strategic stock of food will be available to them in the long run.  And third, the law holds merchants and retailers accountable for any violations of the regulations, by issuing strict penalties.