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UAE: Support for Emirati farmers has not been compromised, says minister

The support package provided by the ministry to Emirati farmers benefited 5,400 farmers during the past three years



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File
by

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Wed 26 Jan 2022, 3:46 PM

Last updated: Wed 26 Jan 2022, 3:47 PM

There is a growing phenomenon of Emirati farmers abandoning their farms, or turning to secondary perennial crops as a result of inadequate agricultural support from the government and the inability of their products to compete with farm products imported from abroad, said a member of the Federal National Council (FNC).

During the FNC meeting on Wednesday, Saeed Rashid Al Abedy said many farm owners in UAE have decided to abandon the production of seasonal crops that are key to food security.

These farmers have moved to secondary perennial agriculture (such as palm and dates production) because they are cheaper to cultivate and more marketable compared to other food products.

He had raised the question to Maryam bint Muhammad Saeed Al Muhairi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, on how her ministry was dealing with the challenges faced by the Emirati farmers.

In response to the question, Al Muhairi said, the ministry provides more than 20,000 Emirati standards for food products, all of which comply with the Codex.

She noted that the ministry had approved 22 legislative tools to support the regulation of the agricultural sector in the country, covering the entire food production chain.

The minister pointed out that the support package provided by the ministry to Emirati farmers benefited 5,400 farmers during the past three years.

"The ministry launched an initiative to increase agricultural production requirements for farmers during the current year, and we are working to raise the number of agricultural support materials from 110 to 128 items which will be provided to farmers at half the price. This contributes to strengthening the ministry's role in supporting the local sector," she said.

Al Muhairi added, "The system of supporting Emirati farmers has not been compromised over the past years or even this year. Rather, we are working to develop this system to increase the number of farms benefiting from it in line with the objectives of the national strategy for food security, which includes directions to adopt modern technology and efficient consumption of natural materials."

Farmers complain of the high costs of maintaining agricultural farms

According to Al Abedy, local agricultural production is one of the important pillars of food security in the country and the main source of income for many farmers.

"But farmers are now facing a challenge caused by the decline in agricultural subsidies. The farmers are now considering leaving their farms or rent them out to people of other nationalities because of the high costs of maintaining the farms," he said.

The FNC member noted that the increasing cost of electricity and water were among the major challenges farm owners have faced for a long time.

Other challenges faced by Emirati farmers, according to Al Abedy, include the inability of their products to compete with food products and crops that are imported from abroad at lower prices and some of which are of low quality compared to the local products.

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He called for full government support for Emirati farms through providing them with electricity and water at affordable prices, land, equipment, seeds and fertilizers.

"The government should also help market local agricultural products and protect them from imported low-priced agricultural products," Al Abedy.

"If we are targeting agricultural production that can help bridge the food gap during crises, and achieve self-sufficiency in food security, then we must preserve the traditional Emirati farmers. For some of them, agriculture and farming are their main source of income."

He called for the development of an integrated plan to expand the marketing of the products from UAE farms and extend monthly financial support to farm owners.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com


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