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UAE makes major strides in agricultural development - National Day 2001

posted on 30/11/2001: 1391 views

The UAE has set an excellent model of how persistence and sound policies can turned a desert into lavish gardens despite the harsh weather and scarcity of water. The UAE's unprecedented success in the field of agriculture could not have been possible without the far-sighted vision and resolve of President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who also believes that farming and civilisation are two faces of one coin. Inspired by Sheikh Zayed's visionary leadership, the UAE is today exporting vegetables and fruits to the USA and UK, and dates to Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The UAE farming success story has won wide international respect, leading to the election last month of the country to the presidency of the 31st summit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA). Saeed Mohammed Al Ragabani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, praised the move as a great honour for the UAE and its leading role in agricultural development at local, regional and global levels. The agricultural sector has made remarkable achievements, making it one of the main backbones of the national economy. Despite the country's inclement climate, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is making relentless efforts to catch up with the new breakthroughs in global farming technology and world economy.

The agricultural plan, seeks, in the first place, to use natural resources in order to produce a bumper output. It has farmed the crops most suitable to the local environment and introduced modern irrigation systems to preserve underground water reserves and stop depletion of water resources. The ministry has also introduced the most modern scientific methods to develop the farming, fishing and animal sectors to meet local demand for food and upgrade the qualitative and quantitative level of production. Efforts are on to spread greenery and establish more farms to increase agricultural production, thereby meeting local market requirements as well as to provide surplus production for export.

The agricultural policies have paid off with bulk of local demand being met. The UAE is 83 per cent self-sufficient in vegetables, 100 per cent in dates and fish, 25 per cent in red meat, 21 per cent in poultry, 32 per cent in eggs and 80 per cent in fresh milk. To continue this success, the Ministry has invited investors to enter the farming sector and provided them with attractive incentives in a bid to achieve food security. The UAE has given special attention to underground water as the main source of irrigation and built a number of recharge dams to replenish the water reserves by trapping rainwater. There were 45 dams with a total retaining capacity of 100 million cubic metres of water. The ministry is currently constructing 27 dams in 19 valleys in the Northern Emirates, for which Sheikh Zayed is meeting all the expenses. The ministry has expanded the technique of drip irrigation to rationalise the use of water. As a result of this policiy, 80 per cent of the country's cultivated areas are now watered by modern irrigation systems. Apart from application of modern irrigation techniques, the ministry also encourages farmers to grow saline- tolerant crops and introduce green houses to avoid depletion of water resources. The total area irrigated by modern networks was around 3 million donums in 2000.

A total of 35,584 farms covering an area of 2.7 million donums were distributed in 2000 compared to 11,468 farms (234,349 donums) in 1980. Sheikh Zayed's initiatives in date palm cultivation have led to a qualitative and quantitative breakthrough-the production of rapidly growing trees and the introduction of effective control to combat palm diseases. The UAE has become a world leader in the production of palm tissues having established a tissue culture laboratory at the Emirates University for this purpose. The ministry plans to develop all aspects of palm cultivation and to improve productivity through the creation of experimental farms, provision of guidance services and equipment, generation of high quality varieties, studying palm populations and establishment of date processing plants. In 2000, the ministry distributed 39,754 palm seedlings.

Sheikh Zayed's initiative for marketing dates has encouraged farmers to give more attention to the palm trees. The palm tree population in the UAE rose to 40.7 million in 2000 from 1.8 million in 1980. A total of 26,406 tonnes of dates were marketed last year with the Northern Emirates accounting for 9,177 tonnes. The ministry has made tremendous efforts to fight the red palm weevil through the biological control project. Experts working on the project have made a breakthrough with the discovery of a new kind of fungus that is hoped will combat the menace.

Taking second place after date palm in terms of cultivated acreage and production, vegetables are grown on an area of 398,375 hectares and production is 2.6 million tonnes. Local output meets 83 per cent of the country's total consumption. In the peak season, the surplus is exported. In view of its lengthy coastline it is not surprising that the UAE has a successful indigenous fishing industry. The ministry has drawn up plans to develop the fishing sector and devised laws to protect the marine life. A research centre for marine life was established in Umm Al Qaiwain to develop fisheries. Nineteen repair workshops have been established along the coastline to provide facilities for fishermen. The number of fishing boats and fishermen rose to 4,688 and 15,543 respectively in 2000 thanks to the continued support of the government to the sector. Total fish catch was 105,456 tonnes. The UAE is self-sufficient in fish and the surplus is exported. The ministry issued Federal Law No 23 for 1999 to develop and protect the marine life.

On animal wealth, the ministry has established a number of clinics to cure and immunise animals and birds from epidemic diseases. In 2000, more than 907,166 animals were treated and immunised. Animal wealth has risen to touch more than 2 million heads including goats, cows and camels. Milk production in 2000 was 163,053 tonnes. Red and poultry meat was 24,810 tonnes and 36,310 tonnes respectively. Egg production touched 266 million eggs. The ministry has banned the use and import of 75 pesticides which have been proved dangerous to the health of humans, animals and the environment. A strict system for registration of pesticides was established on the model of international standards in order to ensure safety of public health. It has launched special programmes to train farmers on the best use of fertilisers and pesticides. The ministry keeps contact with international organisations to exchange data on the latest developments in the field.

With regard to international cooperation, the ministry has sealed a series of agreements with regional and international organisations on joint cooperation, exchange of data and expertise. The ministry is working with the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development on a project to fight red palm weevil. The UAE is also participating in research conducted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The Fund also trains UAE researchers on palm studies. The UAE has excellent relations and cooperation with other regional and international agencies like UNDP and FAO. The UAE, under directives from Sheikh Zayed, extends food assistance to needy people all over the world as part of efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. It also offers aid to developing countries to develop their agricultural sector. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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