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Talented Emiratis don’t have appetite for food-related jobs

The UAE imports nearly 80% of its food and needs to do more to attract talent and increase domestic production
  • UAE aims to create 20,000 new food jobs
  • But it struggles to attract workers
  • $10bn industry GDP goal

Working in the UAE’s food and agriculture businesses is not “very attractive” for Emirati students and the industry must do more to attract local talent, according to the chief of a Dubai Chamber-run food entity. 

“Nationals don’t even represent two percent of the overall workforce in the food sector,” Saleh Lootah, chairman of the F&B Group, said during a video interview with AGBI at the fifth Future Food Forum. 

“We haven’t done enough in marketing in our sector. The other thing, which the government is already taking steps in, is to push the private sector to recruit nationals,” he added. 

Attracting more talented Emiratis would help with the aim of growing food and farming’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP to $10 billion and create 20,000 new jobs in the next five years. 

Edible insects

A key subject discussed during the two-day forum was what people will eat in the future – and the answer could be insects.

A study by Barclays estimated that the edible insects market will be valued at $6.3 billion by 2030.

While many insects can provide a valuable source of protein and are less harmful for the environment than cattle and poultry, Ahmed Alshaibany, project head of the Food Tech Valley, believes that the sector will “take some time to establish itself”. 

Alshaibany said there was a difference between what businesses can offer and what consumers can accept.

“If you are introducing a new type of food like alternative protein or cellular meat, you need to build awareness with the consumer for them to start finding the value and consuming this type of food,” he said. 

He added that maybe the edible insects industry should “first establish itself in certain other segments like livestock and animal feed”. 

Watch the full video to understand why healthy and organic food is expensive.