Experts and farm owners submitted nine proposals to address the challenges facing the agricultural sector in the country, to enhance its contribution to food security and achieve self-sufficiency, especially in crises, such as the "Corona" crisis.
They called on the concerned authorities to provide more support to the agricultural sector, create new job opportunities for citizenship cadres, and support marketing plans.
This came during the "Emirates Today" Ramadan Council, which was held last Sunday evening, under the title "The Future of Agriculture and Food Security", and its session was moderated by the editor of "Emirates Today", Sami Al-Riyami.
The Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment for the regions sector participated in the council, Acting Assistant Undersecretary for the Food Diversity Sector Sultan Alwan, and the director of the Department of Agricultural Development and Health in the ministry Hamad Al-Dhanhani, and a number of experts and farm owners, in the presence of the editor-in-chief of “Emirates Today” Abdullah Bani Issa And head of the localities department in the newspaper, Ahmed Hashem Ashour.
Sultan Alwan emphasized that the UAE government has given importance to the agricultural sector, since the beginning of the union by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God rest his soul).
He pointed out that "the agricultural sector contributes 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."
Alwan pointed out that the number of farms in the country is currently 830 thousand, which indicates the expansion of the agricultural sector in the UAE.
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, and increase it, including preparing (the Emirates Food Diversity Policy), and has developed a strategy for its implementation, aimed at promoting and supporting food sustainability.”
He continued: "The Ministry launched initiatives, including the development of (my sustainable farm gate), which facilitates access to agricultural extension services, and the portal includes many specialties."
The food security expert and the owner of an organic farm, Dr. Khaled Al Shamsi said: “During the era of the late 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 Abu Dhabi, and all needs were met The main infrastructure is water, irrigation and irrigation networks, and electricity, so it contributed to finding national experiences that deserve support in this sector, and the most prominent results were to find national cadres that supervise their farms themselves.
He pointed out that the Food and Agriculture Organization immortalized the saying of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the famous "Give me agriculture I guarantee you civilization", and I wrote it on its largest halls, which means recognition and praise from the organization for the great attention that the state attaches to this sector.
For his part, the owner of a farm, Rashid Al-Murar, stated that “the most important requirement that every farmer needs is the presence of a market that brings us together as Emirati farmers under the slogan (one product), and a point of contact between us and the merchants”, noting that “UAE farms in Liwa produce more than 90 varieties Of fruits, though, there is no market where farmers communicate. ”
He pointed out that if the Emirati farmer gets his product to the market, his price will drop to less than half, for example the price of "figs" in 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 working .
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 a strategy was developed to address this challenge, as contracts were made with commercial stores , To market farmers ’products.”
He added: "Work is under way to establish a national company that works to market farmers' products and put them on the market under the name of (certain) brand."
The owner of the “Garcia” farm, Hamid Al-Hamid, reviewed the development steps his farm has witnessed, as a model for the comprehensive Emirati farms.
He pointed out that the challenges facing farm owners are difficult to reduce in marketing, but it is a comprehensive strategy, and therefore we invented the concept of a comprehensive farm, which includes 10 departments, and currently “Gracia” manages more than 120 farms nationwide, and has also opened marketing outlets for their products.
Al-Hamed added: "We are working with the Ministry of Interior to build an agricultural system in prisons. We have a set of farm models that will be launched soon, including the first innovative farm in the world."
In his comment, Muhammad al-Dhanhani said: "Food security is a shared responsibility of all, and the ministry has a policy that works to develop it, and therefore we need to unite efforts, to address all challenges, such as marketing."
The owner of a farm, Hamad Al-Falasi, saw that the citizen farmer faces several challenges, the most prominent of which is that the cost of the local agricultural product exceeds that of the importer, so the competition is not equal, and this makes the UAE farmer bear a high cost without charge, which forces farmers to leave work in this sector .
He suggested that the state impose an added tax on some imported agricultural commodities with a minimal cost, which would achieve a somewhat balance between domestic and 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, following: “We have to develop a strategy that works during (3 years) to find citizen entrepreneurs in the agricultural field, and establish model farms for organic agriculture, and we need courses outside The state, finding citizens' entrepreneurs in the agricultural field, and exploiting exemplary farms as research centers and establishing tourist farms.
A farm owner, Rashid Al-Attar, called for a strategy on integration between farmers, explaining that this strategy must start from the broad base (farmers) in order to reach the top of the pyramid (officials), as we lack experts and specialists who provide farmers with agricultural affairs information.
The newspaper's editor-in-chief, 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 then 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. 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 preserve the vitality of the agricultural sector and the continuity of the desire of citizenship cadres in Investing and working with it will also limit its reluctance.
Speakers supported the idea of a company that would be a platform for product advancement and marketing, while other support was available, so that company would be supportive, and would include a person representing every region of the country.
The nine recommendations
1- Supporting creative and novice citizens of the cadres in the agricultural sector.
2- Create 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- Apply a tax on the imported product symbolically so that the cost of the imported product is equal to the local.
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 nationwide 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.
Watch the first part of the council
Watch the second part of the council
Watch the third part of the council