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Abu Dhabi farmers gear up for next agricultural season

posted on 21/07/2015: 3168 views

The summer heat may be at its peak, but farmers across Abu Dhabi are busy with their preparations for the upcoming agricultural season.

Seeding and planting for the 2015-16 agricultural season will start at the end of July for 24,000 farms across the emirate. Among them 4,000 have the required quantity of water needed to grow vegetables, and at least 1,000 among them have already signed contracts with the Abu Dhabi Farmers Services Centre (ADFSC).

Farmers say there are advantages in working with the centre, though some prefer to farm their own way. "The centre buys produce from us at very low price, which hampers our chances of making profit," explained Mohammed Al Mansouri, a farmer from Al Ain region.

"However, the centre meets production costs of all farmers, even when the sales are down. Another benefit, it provides tips on best agricultural practices," added Al Mansouri, who joined ADFSC for two agricultural seasons now. Cucumbers, tomatoes and capsicum remain the top crops for Abu Dhabi farmers, but ADFSC plans to have 40 different fruit and vegetables grown by its farmers, including four new ones.

"The new crops that we will introduce next season include some varieties of hot pepper, okra and long kousa," Ahmed Al Suwaidi, communications section manager at ADFSC, told Khaleej Times.

"Farmers are able to select the crops they prefer to grow, according to our plan for the season, however they are required to submit an expression of interest to ADFSC. We will then approve the varieties to be grown on every farm based on market demand and an approved criteria," explained Al Suwaidi. By the end of harvest in November next year, the centre's 1,000 farmers were expected to supply an estimated 31,050 tonnes of class one produce.

ADFSC usually encourages farmers to go the greenhouse route, as the crop yields are higher, but because of initial investment and maintenance costs, most farmers prefer open air fields. The harvest period lasts for 34 weeks, including 15 weeks of peak season, where up to 1,300 tonnes of fruit and vegetables will be harvested per week.

Ten key crops represent approximately 77 per cent of the total expected production.

These include cucumbers, which represent around 41 per cent of the total expected production, followed by round tomatoes (16.6 per cent), eggplant (4.7 per cent), and sweet peppers (4.4 per cent). Other vegetables in the list are cabbage, potatoes and capsicum. ADFSC introduced organic vegetables last year, but finding the project unsuccessful, the centre decided to drop organic produce for this season.

"In terms of quality, it is difficult to compare greenhouse with open field crops. However, we provide technical assistance to improve both the open field and greenhouse farming practices, to have a production of high quality crops, while conserving the country's environmental resources," he added. ADFSC sells all its produce to UAE Army and other government entities, rural market centres and major retailers and wholesalers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. According to the centre, buying local produce not only supports Emirati farmers, but the environment as well, as it saves tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. – Khaleej Times -


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