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GulfNews Business

UAE needs to create pools of harvested rainwater for its needs

Analysis|: The UAE's food security hinges on its imports — nearly 85 per cent of its total requirement. If the nation follows the same trade trajectory, food import costs are projected to increase to $400 billion by 2025. Although UAE's economic and political leverage allows such a trade deficit, it does not align with today's changed reality, characterized by supply-chain disruptions and emphasis on self-reliance. The obvious solution is to enhance localized agricultural production. But this is easier said than done. Sub-optimal soil conditions, arid climate, acute water scarcity and erratic rainfall leave the UAE with several impediments to food production. And since water is the most important determinant of agricultural productivity, the lack of it means that the scope can be limited. Disproportionate As things stand, agriculture already accounts for 65 per cent of water use in the UAE, which is disproportionately high. Increasing the demand on desalination plants, too is not a viable solution, taking into account the high carbon emissions this would involve. Such a conflicting set of conditions is not unique. Many nations, particularly in the Middle East, are grappling with multi-faceted challenges to food security. This was further aggravated during the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, 690 million people were chronically undernourished, while three billion could not afford a nutritious diet. As a result, agriculture attracted renewed focus, in the recent WEF Davos 2021. Policymakers and business elites echoed the pressing need to shape agricultural policies and partnerships for a more inclusive and sustainable future. However, unlike previous editions, Davos 2021 strongly advocated for a framework that addresses the interplay between agriculture and issues such as water scarcity, climate change and deforestation. The great reset underway lends a perfect window to introduce such holistic approaches to addressing food scarcity. If the pandemic showed us anything, it was that we are capable of decisive actions when faced with adversity. And in the context of the UAE, this endeavour - to drive sustainable agriculture - relies heavily on harnessing renewable resources. The UAE has poured massive investments into desalination and wastewater treatment. Today, the nation is a global leader in those domains. Concurrently, cloud-seeding initiatives were launched to enhance precipitation. But there is still a need for cost-effective and scalable mechanisms to harvest rainwater and avert flooding. Centralized rainwater harvesting systems, which are expensive to install and have limited catchment area, are not viable. Decentralize To extract maximum value, we need decentralized systems that are employable by individual farmers and institutions alike, as per requirements. Thanks to technology, such systems are now possible. These decentralized systems tick all the sustainability boxes in line with Davos Agenda's push for a holistic approach. They essentially enable self-reliance and sufficiency in the agriculture ecosystem, by harnessing a renewable source of water. Widespread deployment could, in time, reduce the load on desalination plants and help reduce the water-related carbon footprint of the UAE. According to the WEF, with rapid urbanization and increasing population, water and food scarcity are set to become even more challenging, if they are not addressed using proactive solutions. Making this change will require multi-stakeholder participation, and strong tech and capital flow to farming communities. But taking a smart approach to addressing fundamental systemic challenges, like water scarcity, can help alter the equation fundamentally, and drive sustainable food security. - Chandra Dake is CEO of Dake Rechsand.

GulfNews Business

Gulfood 2021: Egyptian snack brands keep thriving on sweet nostalgia

Retail|: Dubai: Molto chocolate-filled croissants, Lambada wafers, Freska bars and Temmy’s cornflakes are just a few of the snacking essentials Egyptians grew up on.. “One of my favourite things to do when I go back is to go to a koshk (a street vendor) to buy some candy,” Samia Khalifa, an Egyptian living in Dubai, said. These household names are produced in Egypt and principally targeted at the domestic market. They tend to take inspiration from US snacks, for example, with the Egyptian cookie brand ‘Borio’ inspired by Oreo, and the chips brand ‘Days’ inspired by - you guessed it - Lays. However, Egyptian companies are also producing their own unique snacks as well, to offer more affordable options rather than the pricey imports. One of the most loved is Molto, a bag of mini stuffed croissants. Breaking into the UAE market has not been easy for some of the all-time favourite snack brands from Egypt. Those that have are often sold at select stores only. Image Credit: Supplied No stopping for COVID-19 So much so the company that owns it, Edita, was launching new products and flavours even during the pandemic, and generating an instant response from those with a sugar craving. “ On whether Edita plans to launch Molto in the UAE, a company spokesperson at Gulfood 2021 gave a firm ‘No’. And which would cause any amount of heartburn for Egyptian expats. Nevertheless, Egyptians can find some of their favourite candies at select supermarkets in the UAE And Snacks like Lambada Wafers and Droo cakes can be purchased at just the one store in the UAE - Al Khebra Al Raidah Hypermarket in Sharjah. Super niche Hany El Masary, a partner at the company told Gulf News that they are hoping to expand the range of Egyptian produced goods in the UAE. “We get Egyptians visiting from all over the UAE, so they can get their hands on nostalgia snacks as well as other food,” he said. Some are having trouble penetrating the market. Senyorita Group, the food company that creates Lion, Windows and Days chips, are struggling to enter the market as the competition in the UAE is already so high. “I myself grew up eating Lion and Days chips, but the one that is most widespread in Egypt is Windows,” said Nada Mohammed, a representative at Senyorita Group. “We have been trying to enter the UAE market for years, but Lays is such a dominant force, that it has been really difficult. “I think the one that could stand out the most is Windows, as it is more unique.” (The brand is named after the shape of the chip itself, a square shape with lines down the middle.) There are around 400,000 Egyptian expats in the UAE. To give them a feel of home, there are the Egyptian restaurants, coffee shops (Ahawy) and a multitude of koshari spots. Plus the music and movies. Now, only if Egyptians could have more of their favourite snacks from the past.

GulfNews Business

Personal finances could always do with a 'deep cleaning'

Analysis|: Since last year, we’ve been fortunate with having more time and space to think, reflect… and clean up. While some measures may seem extreme, that deep cleaning gave us a sense of control. For many, their finances took a toll, and as salaries were revised, this created a financial mess. Pandemic or not, deep cleaning your finances is an essential task because you are aware where you stand. Doing so on a regular basis can make life easier, and your financial journey a lot more comfortable. If you don’t know that extra Dh100 that crept into your phone bill, it’s time to start thinking and asking questions. Here are four ways to deep clean your finances and the benefits it will bring: Read More Travel and tourism workers endured biggest wage cuts, longer furloughs during COVID-19 GameStop mania exposes SEC's failure as regulator Stay informed If you have a problem remembering what you spent, then it is a problem. With Apple Pay and Google Pay and most leading banks offering online payments, it’s been easier to track spending. If a diary and a pen is what works for you, then create a finance journal and fill it up at the end of the day (or week). No matter how small the amount is, if you think you haven’t spent it, it’s good to ask questions and follow up. Clean the 'waste bin' Dusting and cleaning your budget will surely reveal some spending patterns. Now, it’s time to identify areas in your budget to make adjustments. The strategy will must work with your lifestyle and goals in mind. Plan to clean up debt Once you have figured out how much you owe and how much you’re paying in interest, create a debt repayment plan based on your budget. Next you will want to look for ways to either increase your payments or reduce your interest rates in order to pay off the debt quicker. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, sit with an advisor or even ask your family for their opinion. Increase income Especially during the pandemic, we saw a rise in online trading. People finally took the effort to learn about the stock market. While it is a full time job, it can be done remotely. Online trading requires you to learn, observe and make planned decisions. You should never believe that it is a game of luck. - Ali Hasan is CEO of Evest.

GulfNews Business

Indian newspapers ask Google to pay publishers 85% of ad revenues

Business|India|: Dubai: India’s largest media body - representing more than 1,000 newspapers with 71 million copies in circulation in 19 languages - has asked Google to share at least 85 per cent of the digital giant’s advertising revenue with publishers. The demand from the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) came on Thursday in a letter written by its president L. Adimoolam to Google India vice-president and country head Sanjay Gupta. Noting that Indian publishers continued to invest heavily to support “quality journalism with credible news, current affairs, analysis, information and entertainment”, Adimoolam said that the proprietary content generated out of this expensive and rigorous process ultimately provided Google its credibility and authenticity in India. Clear lack of transparency However, in return, Indian media publishers were facing a very opaque advertising system, as they were unable to get details of Google’s advertising value chain, he said. “The Society insisted that Google should increase the publisher share of advertising revenue to 85 per cent, and also ensure more transparency in the revenue reports provided to publishers by Google,” the INS said in a statement made available to Gulf News. “The society has demanded Google should pay for news generated by the newspapers which employ thousands of journalists on the ground, at considerable expense, for gathering and verifying information.” The letter was sent on the same day that Australia’s parliament passed a law to make Google and Facebook pay media companies for content on their platforms. Countries like the UK and Canada are also mulling similar laws. “In the dialogue we are having with Google for the past three months, we are trying to figure out an appropriate monetisation model that would work out in favour of both parties,” Mohit Jain, vice-president of INS, told Gulf News in a phone interview from Mumbai. “Over time, if this approach does not work out, some publishers are also looking at working with the government for legislative support on the same.” Australian government has shown the way in taking on digital media giants and have them pay for part of the content they place on their platforms. Image Credit: Reuters Fast paced growth According to a FICCI-EY 2020 report, India’s digital news readership has grown to more than 300 million users and the country remains the world’s fastest-growing advertising market. Ad revenues of Facebook and Google in India rose to $1.58 billion in FY19, with the two companies garnering nearly 70 per cent market share of India’s online advertising space. According to Dentsu Aegis, India’s online ad spend is expected to reach $3.87 billion by 2022. But beleaguered Indian media companies have seen major layoffs and shut down of operations since the pandemic-triggered lockdown last year, and are now looking up to the government to enact legislation similar to Australia to make Google and Facebook share ad revenues. “It is also noted that Google has recently agreed to better compensate and pay publishers in France, the European Union and notably in Australia,” the INS said. “However, newspaper publishers [in India] are seeing their share of the advertising pie shrinking in the digital space, even as Google is taking a giant share of advertising spends,” the society said. India's news publishing industry is at a critical juncture. While digital readership has shot up significantly, there is limited gains on the revenue side for the content creators. Image Credit: AFP

GulfNews Business

British Airways' owner offers no forecasts as 2020 operating loss soars to $9b

Aviation|: London: British Airways parent IAG SA posted a 7.43 billion-euro ($9 billion) operating loss in 2020 and said it can't provide an outlook as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter air travel. The group's first loss in almost a decade included exceptional charges of 3 billion euros against plane retirements, restructuring and fuel-hedging measures. CEO Luis Gallego said an international commitment to digital health passes and wider COVID-19 testing is required to reopen travel, on top of moves already being explored in countries including the UK. "Getting people traveling again will require a clear roadmap for unwinding current restrictions when the time is right," he said. Read More Outlook for airlines deteriorating in 2021: IATA Global airline body IATA plans COVID travel pass for end of March Strain on finances IAG has had to cut jobs, borrow money and sell stock to stay afloat, with BA particularly hard because of its reliance on a trans-Atlantic market that's still virtually closed. Short-haul specialists such as EasyJet are counting on a quicker rebound as the UK's vaccine roll-out helps spur leisure bookings. Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA separately reported a 16.63 billion kroner ($1.95 billion) loss in the fourth quarter, including impairment costs related to aircraft purchases. The Scandinavian carrier is restructuring under an examinership process in an Irish court and will offer a detailed plan next week. The company has said it plans to raise new equity in late March or early April, and focus on regional flights after turning away from the low-cost, long-haul business that put price pressure on major carriers like British Airways IAG attempted to purchase Norwegian Air in 2018, but dropped the plan after its bids were rejected and losses mounted at the smaller company.