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Government authorities, consumers, local farms and farmers have joined hands to ensure access to safe, local, fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and diary for the UAE residents.
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit and brought with its logistical problems on importing food, the demand for locally-produced crop shot up in the UAE.
Technology only aptly aided the process with farmers/farms using advanced tools and concepts including moisture sensors, global positioning system (GPS), robotic systems, etc. This, coupled with UAE’s commitment to ramp up the food security for its residents, the green drive is burgeoning, with the top food categories in terms of sales volumes in the UAE being cereals, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meat (Nielsen Retail Measurement Services, Internal Estimates and the Balance of Trade Imports and Exports UAE).
“I believe there is a strong drive towards greater food self-sufficiency, particularly following the announcement of the National Food Security Programme in 2018, which aims to make the UAE the world’s most food-secure nation by 2050. One key objective of the programme is to increase the amount of food produced in the country,” said Willem van Walt Meijer, chief executive officer (CEO), Al Ain Farms.
Appetite for locally-produced crop
Within the dairy category, around 60% of dairy products sold in the UAE are produced locally and around 40% are imported. In the fresh poultry category, the ratio of local production is much higher at around 80%, with only 20% imported (Nielsen Retail Measurement Services, Internal Estimates and the Balance of Trade Imports and Exports UAE).
Al Ain Farms stresses on the availability, affordability and outstanding quality of locally-made products.
“The continued support we receive from the government will further enhance the scale of the local output and ensure a fair level playing field for the local manufacturers,” added Willem. “There is an increased interest to support local and reduce the carbon footprint where possible,” said Halima Jumani, Director, Kibsons.
She singled out local vegetables such as lettuce, mushrooms, cucumbers, herbs and cabbages as the top-five selling products. “Besides, local poultry and dairy products such as milk and eggs are also within our top-selling categories,” she added.
New technology, increased investments
“There is a rise in the locally produced crop, especially with the advent of new technologies like hydroponics. We source a variety of 40 types of fruits and vegetables such as mushrooms, greens, tomato, peppers, and cucumbers to name a few, throughout the year, from local growers,” said Rashid Mohamed Alabbar, a Board Member of Barakat.
Barakat Group, a homegrown brand, is one of the leading suppliers of a diverse spectrum of fresh produce.
Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) recently invested US$100 million (m) (Dh367 m) in four agri-tech companies to finance their establishment in Abu Dhabi, Willem said.
“We too have made considerable investment in building up local production capacity. We began in 1981, with just 200 cows and one milk processing plant. Today, we operate four farms with nearly 15,000 heads of cattle and during the pandemic, we welcomed 4,000 new cows to our herd,” he added.
Support for local farmers and farms
Depending on the season, Kibsons have an active relationship with over 25 fresh produce farms in the UAE. Kibsons, a family-run business, offers to its clients an ever-increasing range of quality fresh fruit and vegetables from all continents.
Currently, Barakat works closely with up to 50 local farmers, as part of their mission to deliver nature’s purity to their customer base, support local growers. “In terms of local production, self-sufficiency ratios are highest in dates, fresh poultry and dairy,” said Willem.
Domestic markets and tourism
The number of consumers doing their daily groceries at the local farmer markets in Dubai is on the rise as well.
The Ripe Market is a community event, which runs across several locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Ripe offers the organic fruit and vegetables from the Ripe Organic Farm and the local farmers they work with.
The 11th Farmers’ Market — now called ‘Farmers Souq’ and supported by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment — is located at Business Bay in Dubai.
Also, the surge in residents making farm visits to educate themselves on food chain and pick fresh supply is the new kind of road trip that has gained popularity. Some of the farms you could visit include Mirak Strawberry Farm, Sharjah; Desert Farm Organic, Dubai; Abu Dhabi Organic Farm, Abu Dhabi; Emirates Hydroponics Farms, Abu Dhabi; Emirates Bio Farm, Abu Dhabi; and Marmum Dairy Farm, Al Ain.
Turkey's lira plunges to record low
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