x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Farmers need fiscal support to reduce import dependence

An official says a special bank is needed to address the needs of UAE agriculture.

The country needs a special agriculture bank to boost lending to farmers and help reduce the country's reliance on imported food, says an Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (DED) official.

Alaa el Din Hassan Moussa, the senior economic researcher at the DED, said the UAE could source only 37 per cent of its food needs locally. There is scope to produce more of certain foods on home soil, such as vegetables, but farmers need more financing to purchase the technology needed to farm in the arid climate, he said.

"You have to increase the loans for farmers," he said. "Here, we have to apply high technology and high technology can be very costly. And the farmer cannot afford to pay this amount."

The UAE has recently set up a Farmers Services Centre to help local agriculture but its focus is on the marketing of produce rather than start-up costs, said Mr Moussa.

In recent years, Gulf countries have looked to boost their food production by purchasing farmland in nearby temperate climates to grow produce abroad. Plans are being made for the UAE to invest in farmland in countries such as Pakistan, Sudan and Cambodia.

Mr Moussa said both strategies would be needed to secure the country's food requirements.

aligaya@thenational.ae