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United Arab Emirates: Popularity of locally grown produce surges

At least 20 per cent of all fruit and vegetables consumed in the UAE are now grown locally, and supermarkets have reported a surge in sales of locally-grown produce over the past four years. This information was revealed at the launch of a week-long event at Lulu supermarkets that seeks to boost the profile of locally-grown produce.

More than a hundred varieties — including cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicum and zucchini grown at farms across the country with support from the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment — are on sale at shops and markets across the country and include organic products.

Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said he wants to increase the amount grown by 5 to 10 per cent a year. The initiative will boost food security, ensure farmers get a bigger slice of the profits by removing middlemen and will lead to sustainable use of vital water supplies.

“We have issued guidelines, improved awareness and educated farmers about water use,” he told The National. “We are trying to change from conventional irrigation systems to more efficient ways.”

Some farmers are embracing hydroponics, a more efficient system of agriculture that does not need soil, to cut their water use by up to 70 per cent, officials said. There are least 200 hydroponic farms in the UAE now and the ministry is helping those who want to try these techniques.

Major supermarket chains are also reporting a surge in sales. Lulu said that it sold close to Dh4m (€952,000) worth of organic, locally-grown produce during 2018 — a five per cent increase on 2017. This represents about 10 per cent of all organic fruit and vegetables sold at its chains here — up from about three per cent a few years ago.

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