Quinoa ‘could be the solution to feeding UAE’s population’
DUBAI // A South American grain could be the solution to the UAE’s lack of arable land and growing population.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, on Tuesday told a conference that there were very few drawbacks to the grain, quinoa, which could address the country’s food security concerns.
“Quinoa has immense potential if given the correct research and investment as a potential way of growing local food that is nutritious and environmentally friendly,” he said.
“Some might ask, ‘why quinoa in the region or in the UAE, considering it is native to South America?’ We live in a very inhospitable environment for agriculture, but in the last few years we’ve seen quinoa as being a highly resistant and productive crop.”
More than 150 leaders, policymakers, scientists, experts and professionals from 46 countries gathered to discuss the latest developments in research, production and trade at the Quinoa for Future Food and Nutrition Security in Marginal Environments conference.
Heat, low rainfall and high-salinity water and soil make the region almost incapable of growing rice and wheat, the cash crops that have become staples in the region.
As a result, the UAE imports more than 90 per cent of its food.
But plantations of salt-tolerant quinoa in the UAE have matched yields from countries in which it has traditionally been grown.
Dr Ismahane Elouafi, director general of the international centre for biosaline agriculture, said there had been considerable research on quinoa and how it could be grown in countries with undernourished land.
“There are still many areas to be researched and improved as we introduce quinoa into agriculture in marginal environments, to make sure its introduction and production systems are beneficial to the communities and their ecosystems now and in the future,” she said.
Dr Elouafi said the challenges included limited availability of genetic and scientific material, lack of understanding by farmers and lack of awareness on making quinoa affordable and desirable.
Quinoa, heralded as a superfood, contains a high amount of protein and branched-chain amino acids that some vegetarians lack.
Updated: December 6, 2016 04:00 AM