The UAE Ministry of Environment and Water has plans to increase the area under organic farming by 5 per cent annually as part of its strategic plan for 2014-2016.
Fatima Al Kalbani, Acting Director of Health and Agricultural Development at the Ministry, stated that the Ministry has made a policy that encourages farmers to use organic fertilisers, seeds, pesticides and other materials.
It is estimated that the deserts of the United Arab Emirates have around 1,60,000 hectares of agricultural land. The UAE’s main farming areas are Diqdaqah in Ras al-Khaimah, Falaj al Mualla in Umm al Quwain, Wadi adh Dhayd in Sharjah, Al Awir in Dubai and the coastal area of Fujairah.
The UAE still imports huge quantity of food grains from India, Pakistan and other countries. Vegetables, too, mostly reach the country from India, Oman, Iran and other countries. Dairy and meat products are mainly imported from India, New Zealand, Holland, Pakistan and Australia.
The UAE government has come with a significant step towards agriculture in 2015, by introducing the first agricultural policy to benefit farming sustainability and profitability.
Organic and green house farming are especially being encouraged in the recent years, by the government.
The Ministry’s efforts, Fatima Al Kalbani added, had improved the production of organic vegetables in cultivated area from 200 hectares to 4,286 hectares in the last three years.
She noted that 62 organic products had been marketed at a cost of Dh7 million, last year.
Parts of Emirates like Al Ain and Abu Dhabi have made huge improvement in recent years, majorly due to the steps by the UAE’s agriculture department.
The Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre’s (ADFSC) target during last year was 31,050 tons of class one produce, focusing exclusively on cabbage, potatoes, and pepper.
The ADFSC offers farmers a Minimum Price Guarantee (MPG), protecting them from market fluctuations and also helps to secure a minimum guaranteed income.
Household farming and terrace farming also witnessed a surge in all emirates of the UAE and farmer’s collectives have formed clubs which are active in social media also.
Becky Balderstone, founder of Ripe Organic, which has been working in the UAE since 2011, said: ”Many of the farms have grown significantly over the last few years to meet the growing demand for organic produce.”
She added that despite the hostile climate in the region, it still brings opportunities to grow local organic produce.
She is confident about the future for organic products, “We have developed a really good network of regional organic farmers [in different microclimates] who can assist us growing vegetables in the UAE a success,” Becky added.
She said Ripe aims to make locally grown fruit and vegetables accessible in the UAE.
‘’We run a pop-up organic stand at schools around Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so parents can pick up their groceries from the stalls being run in schools.”
With inputs from Official WAM Agency
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