Experts and farm owners presented nine proposals to address the challenges facing the agricultural sector in the state, to enhance the sector's contribution to food security, and the factors it requires to achieve self-sufficiency, in order to protect the homeland, especially when the major crises that the world may be exposed to, such as the Corona virus crisis The new, urging the concerned authorities to provide more support to the agricultural sector, which can achieve food security and create new job opportunities for the national cadres.
This came during the remote Emirates Ramadan Council yesterday, under the title "The Future of Agriculture and Food Security", which was moderated by the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Sami Al-Riyami, and the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment for the Territories Sector participated, acting Acting Undersecretary of the Ministry for the sector Acting food diversity, Sultan Alwan, Director of the Development and Agricultural Health Department of the Ministry, Hamad Al-Dhanhani, and a number of experts and farm owners at the country level.
In his speech, Sultan Alwan stressed that the government of the UAE has attached great importance to the agricultural sector, since the beginning of the union at the hands of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God rest his soul, noting that «the agricultural sector, thanks to the directions of the leadership and the government, During the last period, there have been great booms in agricultural production, which has contributed to more than one million tons annually of market requirements for vegetables, fruits and other crops, and this figure is considered good in light of the limited resources supporting agriculture, which is irrigation water and arable land.
He pointed out that the number of farms in the country has now reached about 830,000, which indicates a significant expansion in the UAE's agricultural sector.
For his part, the Director of the Department of Agricultural Development and Health at the Ministry, Mohammed Al-Dhanhani said: “The Ministry implements many plans to support agricultural production in the country, and to increase it, including preparing a special policy (Emirates Food Diversity Policy), and has developed a strategy to implement this policy, aimed at promoting and supporting Food sustainability in the country, while preserving natural resources, and the ministry has put in place frameworks and procedures through which the agricultural sector can be developed and the quantity of local agricultural products increased and its contribution to the market, and has built partnerships and signed memoranda of understanding with the private sector to achieve this goal, whether in terms of production inputs or promotions and Marketing of local products, and it promoted the adoption of modern agricultural methods, especially those that rely on remote sensing technologies and all sustainable irrigation systems. ”
He added that «the ministry focused on building farmers’ capacities through training and guidance, on modern agricultural methods, and works to develop legislation and procedures to stimulate investment and entrepreneurship in the field of local agriculture, in addition to that the Ministry launched several initiatives, including the development of (My Farms Sustainable Portal), which It facilitates access to agricultural extension services provided by the Ministry, and the portal includes many specialties, including control and safety measures, fertilizer and irrigation procedures, and all agricultural practices needed by farmers, in addition to other projects that support the production system Local, including aerial surveys of agricultural areas using (Aldrunz), and its role in shaping the future of agricultural policy of the UAE, depending on the statistical system, can be used as a basis in the construction of future agricultural policy ».
The food security expert and the owner of an organic farm, Dr. Khaled Al Shamsi, reviewed the history of agriculture in the Emirates, stressing that “the agricultural history in the region indicates the existence of data that helped the development of this sector, and during the era of the late, God willing, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan ( May God rest his soul.) The agricultural sector witnessed the establishment of more than 30 thousand farms, including 24 thousand farms in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and it provided all the basic needs of infrastructure, water, irrigation and electricity networks, so it contributed to finding national experiences that deserve support in this sector, and its most prominent results were Finding national cadres to supervise their own farms. ”
He pointed out that the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the largest organization concerned with this field in the world, immortalized the famous saying of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, "Give me agriculture I guarantee you civilization", as I wrote it on its largest halls, which means an express recognition of that organization with the great attention that the state attaches to it. For this sector.
For his part, the owner of a farm, Rashid Al-Murar, stated that «the most important requirement that every farmer needs, is that there is a market that brings us together as Emirati farmers under the slogan (one product), and brings together big traders together, and is a point of contact between us on the one hand and traders from owners of large companies And the large markets, on the other hand, ”noting that“ Emirati farms in Liwa produce the best types of dates and the best types of vegetables, in addition to producing more than 90 varieties of fruits, despite all that there is no market in which all these farmers communicate. ”
He pointed out that if the UAE farmer reaches his market to the market, its price will drop to less than half, for example the price of "figs" in the farms ranges between 60 and 70 dirhams, but the authorities designated for sale buy it at 20 dirhams, which causes some citizens farmers to stop practicing Work, because these prices do not cover the cost of production.
In his response to Al-Murar’s observation, the Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry, Sultan Alwan, said: «Marketing of local agricultural products is a challenge for our path during the visits of the Minister of Climate Change and Environment Dr. Thani Al-Zayoudi, and his meetings with farmers, and accordingly a strategy was developed to address this challenge, as it was done through Contracts with commercial stores in the state, to market farmers ’products, and we are currently working, as part of the government accelerators, to support national agriculture through coordination with partners in the state, as well as supporting the ministry to create a national system for marketing farmers’ products, and the establishment of a national institution or company is underway. It is working on marketing farmers' products, packaging them, caring for them and putting them on the market under a certain name, and these plans will see the light soon. ”
He stressed that the products of the Emirati farms of high quality compete with the products of the developed countries in this production, but they need more attention in the way of supply and marketing, and this is what the Ministry is currently working on, within an integrated system.
The owner of the “Garcia” farm, Hamid Al-Hamid, reviewed the development steps his farm witnessed, as a model for the comprehensive Emirati farms, which confirms that the Emirati people are able to achieve leadership in the agricultural sector, adding: “I got a master’s degree in strategic leadership and change management, and worked on a feasibility study for a project The change in the agriculture sector for the next 15 years, and the first pillar of the study was the total of farmers, and not waiting for support from the government, but we were able to achieve the support we received from government agencies, in the first year what we should have achieved during the first five years of the study, and we reaped With the project Numerous awards, including the best project in the Arab world.
He pointed out that the challenges facing farm owners are difficult to reduce in marketing only or knowledge or agricultural systems, but it is a comprehensive strategy, and therefore we invented the concept of a comprehensive farm, which includes 10 departments, has a comprehensive system that includes "Gracia of agricultural systems", and "Gracia of software" , "Gracia for livestock", "Gracia for agricultural wealth", "Gracia for agricultural products and supplies", and currently "Gracia" manages more than 120 farms nationwide, and has opened marketing outlets for their products.
He noted that the farm was visited by more than 13,000 students from schools last year, in addition to that it currently has a number of scholars from European universities for training, and then the farm has become a gateway to social, environmental and entertainment knowledge, with fodder production, fertilizer production and vegetable production, and a study center for training and development Professional.
Al-Hamed pointed out that the state has agricultural and irrigation systems that are comparable and in many times superior to those in other countries, adding: “We have the ability to build competitive agricultural systems, and we are currently working with the Ministry of Interior to build an agricultural system inside prisons, and we have a set of models The farms will be launched soon, including the first innovative farm in the world. ”
In his comment, Mohammed Al-Dhanhani said: “Food security has now become a shared responsibility of everyone, whether government, private sector, educational, farmers, or consumers. The ministry has a policy in this sector that it is currently developing, and therefore we need to unite efforts, to address All challenges, such as marketing, and among the most prominent steps to address it, we have signed agreements with major outlets to market UAE agricultural products.
The owner of a farm, Hamad Al-Falasi, said that the citizen farmer has become very experienced in the agricultural sector, but he faces several challenges, the most prominent of which is that the cost of the local agricultural product exceeds the cost of the imported agricultural product, especially coming from some neighboring countries, so the competition is not equal in The market, which is experiencing strong competition, and this makes the Emirati farmer bear a high cost for free, forcing farmers to leave work in this sector.
He suggested that the state impose an added tax on some imported agricultural goods with a minimal cost, which would achieve a somewhat balance between local and imported products, and at a time of declining local production, this tax will be raised from imported products.
As for the owner of a farm, Issa Al-Dabbous, he went on to say that the idea of self-sufficiency in agricultural products is possible, especially since the UAE does not know the impossible, continuing: “If we want to achieve this self-sufficiency, then we must devise a strategy that works within a certain period of time (3 years), to achieve goals Several, it is the creation of citizen entrepreneurs in the agricultural field, the establishment of model farms for organic agriculture, and the establishment of tourist farms, and we need courses outside the country, adopted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment for specific countries, because many novice farmers enter the field and have no knowledge of the principles of agriculture, as well as the exploitation Growth farms Zjah research centers and training and then generate additional income for the owner of the farm ».
A farm owner, Rashed Al-Attar, called for developing a strategy for integration between farmers in order to achieve food security, explaining that this strategy must start from the broad base (farmers) in order to reach the top of the pyramid (officials).
He suggested that the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment organize a ministerial council (monthly meeting) throughout the year, so that each month is in a specific region at the state level, to get to know farmers ’proposals and demands, so that the government’s decisions in the agricultural sector support this.
He added, “It is necessary to integrate all the concerned parties in the field of food security that needs the intervention of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization, and from the Federal Electricity and Water Authority, customs and others. We also lack experts and specialists who are a reference for all farmers to provide them with the necessary knowledge and information about agricultural affairs ».
For his part, Sami Al-Riyami asked about the feasibility of having a specific entity in charge of "agriculture" in the state, pointing out that the existing agricultural models are individual efforts, and therefore they need a major umbrella that defines for each farm a specific area, and organizes agriculture so that it is integrated and not competitive .
He added that many sectors fall under a development company, such as a real estate development company and others, and therefore the agricultural sector needs a development company that supports farmers with knowledge, follow-up, provision of supplies and financing until the marketing of their products, stressing that such a company will maintain the vitality of the agricultural sector and the continuity of the citizens ’desire to Investing and working with it will also limit its reluctance.
Speakers supported the idea of a company that would be a platform to promote the product and marketing, while other means of support are available. Therefore, this company is supportive and includes a person representing each region of the state, which is an umbrella for the exchange of agricultural expertise and information, stressing that such a company will achieve "protectionism" for the agricultural product National, and will reduce costs for farmers, because it will provide clover and marketing.
The nine recommendations
1 - Supporting creative and novice citizenship cadres in the agricultural sector
2 - Finding a market for local agricultural products at reasonable prices, and it will be a point of contact between farmers and traders.
3- Setting a strategy for the agricultural sector that includes aspects of the agricultural process from qualifying farms to marketing its product.
4- Supporting the competition of Emirati products for imported products with low prices, in light of the high cost of the local.
5- Imposing a tax on the imported product symbolically so that the cost of the imported product is equivalent to the local one.
6- Setting a three-year strategy to achieve several goals, including finding entrepreneurs and establishing tourist farms.
7- The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment approves the organization of a group of agricultural councils at the state level, throughout the year.
8- Establishing a semi-governmental agricultural development company to serve as a platform for product development and marketing.
9- The Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment appoints experts and specialists who will be a reference for farmers in agricultural affairs.