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Rooting for local produce

Filed on April 21, 2021

Mohammad Nassar, CEO of NRTC Group, speaks on the country's fresh vegetable and fruits sector and the companies alignment with the UAE's sustainability goals


The fresh fruits and vegetable sector has transformed immensely over the last five years and continues to undergo constant change. Globally, the shift towards sustainable technology innovations and digital commerce has steadily increased and farmers are now having to utilise innovative and sustainable practices that cater to consumer demand. This rise in awareness has added pressure to fresh fruits and vegetables businesses, to deliver more health-conscious and eco-friendly products that maintain reasonable pricing.

At NRTC Fresh, we have learnt the importance of balancing imported goods with locally-produced products, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the demand for e-commerce options rose sharply amongst local consumers. In fact, the online groceries segment grew by more than three times during the lockdown period in 2020 meaning that businesses had to quickly adapt with their consumer. Though driven by safety concerns, this spike in activity translated into sizeable benefits for fresh fruits and vegetable delivery providers.

With customers more willing to explore the convenience of shopping for food online, their awareness increased regarding the source and nutritional value of the fresh produce they were purchasing. Customers are now comparing the impact, price and benefits of choosing local produce vs imported fresh fruits and vegetables.

The importance of buying local

Despite the fact that the UAE still imports approximately 80 to 90 per cent of its food, residents are increasingly choosing to purchase locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Supporting local farms not only develops the local agriculture industry but also creates jobs and contributes to local food security and needless to say, nationals and residents are rising to support the UAE's economic diversification goals when it comes to local produce.

On the other hand, it is vital that the fruit and vegetables sector create a balance between the high demand for sustainably-sourced, imported produce and the increasing capabilities and produce coming from local farms. This balance plays a key role in supporting environmental and economy sustainability.

Finding the right balance

The UAE possesses a unique context, which has created phenomenal demand for exported products. The multi-cultural demographic in this nation, attests to diverse international tastes and consequently requires a global sourcing of fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that cannot be produced locally due to climatic conditions to name one factor.

Therefore, when it's possible to import certain fruits and vegetables on a large scale, the transport costs often outweigh the negatives and also enables lower-priced produce that local consumers desire. This explains why there is a responsibility on the fresh fruits and vegetables sector to find the balance of supplying exported goods while equally supporting the national plans of developing the local agriculture industry and the National Strategy for Food Security 2051.

Where to buy local produce

Nowadays, technology has enabled locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to be purchased conveniently online through mobile applications and direct suppliers websites. Customers now prefer to stray from visiting local supermarkets to enjoy the wealth of opportunities of purchasing local produce online. Many consumers now prefer to conveniently shop from their device or smartphone. Beyond ecommerce websites, many businesses now sell their products through mobile apps and social-commerce platforms such as Instagram shop. 

With customers more willing to explore the convenience of shopping for food online, their awareness increased regarding the source and nutritional value of the fresh produce they were purchasing. Customers are now comparing the impact, price and benefits of choosing local produce vs imported fresh fruits and vegetables.

 





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