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Emirates Development Bank to focus on farmers, says CEO

Workers stacking hay on a farm in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Agriculture contributed AED3.5 billion to the UAE's GDP in 2023 Alamy via Reuters
Workers stacking hay on a farm in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Agriculture contributed AED3.5 billion to the UAE's GDP in 2023
  • EDB to lend $8.1bn by 2026
  • Up to 15% for food security
  • UAE agriculture sector growing

Emirates Development Bank is prioritising food security this year, its CEO has told AGBI, and has billions of dirhams ready to lend to the UAE’s farmers.

Food security is one of the five funding pillars of the state-owned EDB, which provides loans and resources to large corporations, SMEs and startups.

The bank has a mandate to fund AED30 billion ($8.17 billion) of loans by 2026 and CEO Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi said he wanted 10-15 percent of the total to go towards “incredibly important” food security.

“We’re trying to go back to the source and that’s the farmers themselves, supporting them with injecting advanced technology with what’s available on the agritech front and also expanding the production capacity they have,” Al Naqbi said.

EDB has approved more than AED721 million in financial support for food security projects since April 2021 as the UAE government seeks to reduce its reliance on other countries.

The Emirates imports nearly 85 percent of its food and has launched the National Food Security Strategy 2051 to increase local production.

According to the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Security Authority, the UAE’s agricultural sector is growing swiftly. In 2023, the sector contributed AED3.5 billion to GDP.

Al Naqbi said EDB was already supporting the food sector on the manufacturing side.

“But those are remote sophisticated corporates who can establish companies with the capacity to produce finished goods and products and export them from the region,” he said.

“Farmers are not necessarily the most sophisticated when it comes to their structures, company accounting practices and so on. We’re working really diligently on developing suitable products but complemented with advisory.”

Emirates Development Bank aims to make AED7bn of loans this year, says CEO Ahmed Al NaqbiEDB
EDB aims to make AED7bn of loans this year, says CEO Ahmed Al Naqbi

Last August, farms in the UAE provisionally agreed to supply food and agricultural products totalling AED500 million over five years to some of the country’s biggest public sector institutions. 

The deal was the first to be struck by the National Farm Sustainability Initiative taskforce, a government group set up by the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment in June 2023. 

Over the three years to the end of Q1 2024, EDB has provided total financing of more than AED10.5 billion across the UAE. Its four other pillars are manufacturing, renewables, healthcare and advanced technology.

Al Naqbi said the bank was looking to approve AED7 billion in loans this year.

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