The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MOCCAE, conducted a series of visits to farmers and landowners in the UAE to encourage them to use modern agricultural and harvesting techniques, to boost production and use their yield for commercial marketing.
Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said, "Enhancing the productivity of local agriculture is crucial to ensuring the UAE’s future food security. We can achieve this goal by diversifying our food sources. Food diversification relies on recognising the diverse objectives and contributions of traditional landholders and commercial farmers, as well as establishing programmes to support both, to ensure the sustainable use of resources. The state’s support to farmers is an incentive for them to become actively involved in commercial production."
He noted that only about five percent of landholders are involved in commercial production, and less than one percent contribute to the local food supply. "We need to create programmes to increase the engagement of landholders and farmers in adopting sustainable management practices, and encourage them to become commercial farmers," he added.
"Local vegetable production provides around 20 percent of the market demand for fresh produce. While a wide range of crops is cultivated in the UAE, most are only harvested over a short season, with the majority in late winter or early spring. There are a few exceptions that extend over a season and are produced in greenhouses, whereas only one crop is produced for most of the year. Storing these crops to make them available in markets around the year consumes a considerable amount of energy for cooling, which increases their final costs," according to Dr. Al Zeyoudi.
He explained that most farmers are reluctant to adopt modern farming techniques and prefer field production, as it is generally the easiest and most profitable approach.
The sustainability and quality of locally produced vegetables can be improved through promoting innovative production systems, which will increase output and quality and reduce negative environmental effects, Al Zeyoudi stated.
He stressed that the low economic return from local agriculture discourages landlords from upgrading their equipment and techniques. "This is why the MOCCAE is promoting its research and development efforts, to slash production costs and increase volume while marketing certain crops more effectively and exploring new varieties that can be grown locally."
Achieving food diversity in the UAE will involve developing the agriculture sector, through creating markets for locally produced food commodities, under the slogan, "Made in UAE," at home and abroad, he said in conclusion.