Why investing in ports and terminals is crucial to food security

Why investing in ports and terminals is crucial to food security

Ports play a critical – and often unseen – role in the provision of food that sustains us all.

Why investing in ports and terminals is crucial to food security

These ports and terminals dotted across the globe are essential for our food supply chains, moving all types of food-related products, including agricultural, fresh fruit, frozen goods and meat, around the world, while also providing space for storage and processing.

Investing in the latest technologies for our ports and terminals is crucial to enhancing logistics infrastructure, mitigating disruptions, reducing waste and ensuring efficient distribution of supplies. And that’s becoming more and more vital as the world grapples with mounting challenges to food security.

Top of the agenda: food security

Food security has become a pressing global concern in recent years, driven by a range of factors, such as extreme weather, rising prices and geopolitical tensions. Concerns around climate change, population growth and economic volatility have underscored the urgency of bolstering food security on a national and international scale. Some nations are placing renewed emphasis on achieving self-sufficiency in food production, aiming to reduce reliance on imports and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where arable land and water resources are scarce, it’s long been a priority to shore up a stable food supply. A growing population and increasing tourist numbers will help increase food spending to $21.5 billion in 2025, from $19 billion in 2022, expanding demand and putting more pressure on the supply side.

Technology and the implementation of sustainable practices can help address the UAE’s particular constraints and the nation is actively working to reduce its vulnerability to disruptions in the global food supply chain.

The role of supply chains in food security

It’s easy to see how technology can help improve traditional food supply chains that have so often been rife with inefficiencies, a lack of transparency and vulnerabilities to disruption.

Digitalisation and other tech developments offer ways to improve visibility and traceability all along the supply chain, following items “from farm to fork”, and ensuring quality and safety standards are met.

Sensors connected to the Internet of Things, radio-frequency identification tags and GPS tracking devices can also be used to monitor temperature data and help enhance the management of temperature-sensitive food items travelling in refrigerated containers.

Supply chains can be optimised using analytics, data and forecasting, harnessing insights into consumer preferences and market trends. Operations can be streamlined with automation and robotics to move goods along the chain more consistently and more rapidly. And there’s an opportunity to build in more flexibility, using digital platforms for e-commerce, direct-to-consumer sales and partnerships with local producers.

It’s also vitally important to use technology to build in sustainability, for example via resource management, waste reduction and eco-friendly packaging.

How investing in ports and terminals will help

The role of ports and terminals as food supply chains become more agile, efficient and resilient cannot be underestimated. Having long served as vital hubs for imports and exports of agricultural products, now, more than ever, they need to rise to the challenge.

Existing infrastructure can be limited in terms of capacity, ageing legacy facilities and inefficiencies in the way that cargo is handled and stored. That’s why strategic investments are so vital to modernise facilities, put in place technologies and improve transportation links.

DP World's Jebel Ali Port in the UAE offers an example of this, with a $150 million agriculture terminals facility being developed in collaboration with Adroit Overseas Canada and Al Amir Foods. The project will increase the efficiency and capacity of food handling at the port, with a focus on the storage and processing of pulses, grains, corn and soybeans.

It will also improve the country's infrastructure, support efforts to strengthen national food security and contribute to the UAE's goal of becoming number one in the Global Food Security Index by 2051. With more than 85% of food imported to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, hubs for processing and storing food fortify local food supply and improve distribution across the region.

Putting collaboration at the heart

What’s needed is a multifaceted approach that melds public-private partnerships with international cooperation to leverage expertise, share knowledge and collaborate across the supply chain.

Investments like those at Jebel Ali Port are crucial to improving infrastructure and boosting capacity, while working collectively to remove regulatory and policy barriers will also be key.

Moves to improve food security around the world are changing supply chains and investment in ports and terminals. DP World's commitment to improving and shoring up the UAE's food supply chain aligns with its wider goal of meeting customer demands.

This holistic approach combines infrastructure development, technological innovation and strategic planning to put ports and terminals at the heart of the future global food trade. By investing in innovation, technology, research and strategic partnerships, we will be well-placed to tackle food security challenges in the UAE and around the world.