x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE farmers rejoice over rain, but with reservations

UAE weather: While many growers have celebrated the recent downpours, some vegetable farmers say too much rain can harm their harvests.

Rashid Sleem Al Kaitbi sifts through carrots at his farm close to Al Ain. He says the rain has been good for his crops as it has washed away dust and dirt from the leaves and vegetables. Razan Alzayani / The National
Rashid Sleem Al Kaitbi sifts through carrots at his farm close to Al Ain. He says the rain has been good for his crops as it has washed away dust and dirt from the leaves and vegetables. Razan Alzayani / The National

ABU DHABI // The dark clouds and heavy rain that swept across the UAE yesterday left the country's farmers with mixed feelings.

As temperatures dropped to 16°C and rainfall reached 25 millimetres in Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, farmers celebrated the downpours with caution.

"I was really happy about the rain," said Obaid Al Jabir, an organic farmer in Al Ain. "But there are always positive and negative effects if you grow vegetables in the UAE."

The date palm trees and seasonal vegetables he grows on his farm of 500,000 square metres were drenched yesterday. But with too much water, the downpour could potentially harm some crops.

"If it continues to rain, this could badly affect my vegetables," he said. "I want it to rain but definitely not too much."

A neighbouring farmer agreed. "This kind of rain is OK, but excessive rainfall can damage certain crops," said Naoufal Mohammad. "During harvest time, iceberg lettuce and cabbage are closed up, so too much rainfall means water will get inside them and that can create fungal problems."

He said the UAE had not seen this amount of damaging rain in almost 50 years.

Mr Mohammad grows up to 30 separate crops on his 800,000 sqm farm, including leafy vegetables and cauliflower.

He usually sources his water from four wells nearby. But yesterday, wells were not needed. "It's nice to see rain in the UAE and we want more of it," he said. "It balanced so many things in the soil."

He said some farmers could experience electrical problems in their greenhouses due to heavy rain, adding water clogging would also be a problem on some farms.

But Abdullah Al Amimi, a greenhouse farmer in Liwa, said he did not have any trouble.

"If you have good protection and your greenhouse is well maintained, then you shouldn't have any problems," he said. "The more rain, the better."

From Liwa all the way to Sharjah and Fujairah, the rain watered the UAE's thirsty farms. And farmers with saline soil were thrilled.

"The rainfall was excellent," said Rashid Burshaid, a farmer in Khor Fakkan, on the east coast.

Keeping his farm healthy can be difficult because of the extremely saline water in his area, so he usually waters his 300 palm trees from a well nearby. "The rain helped my farm a lot," he said.

Other farmers in Abu Dhabi rejoiced as the rain cleansed their soil. "There can never be enough water on farms in the UAE," said Rashid Sleem Al Kaitbi, an organic farmer in Nahel, near Al Ain.

"We need it because the sand absorbs the water 10 minutes after it rains," he said.

Rain washed the soil on his 36,000 sqm farm, taking with it all harmful pests and excessive salt.

"This is very good for the country," said Mr Al Kaitbi. "In any other country, water would not get absorbed."

But Ali Ahmed Bukarrood, a hydroponics farmer in Al Aweer, 35 kilometres from Dubai, was not too pleased with the number of clouds. "They affect my greenhouses because there isn't enough light, especially in winter," he said. "I need more sun because it's harvest time now."

Although his 100 greenhouses might not get a lot of sun in the coming days, he hoped rain would keep falling because "there is never any rain in the UAE, so we need as much water as we can get".

The next few days will see an improvement in weather, according to the National Centre for Meteorology and Seismology.

"Today and tomorrow will be partly cloudy with a light to moderate wind," said a spokesman. "Humidity will increase, especially at night and in the early morning and we might get fog over the western and interior areas."

He said temperatures would increase by 2°C to 3°C daily, reaching between 23°C and 28°C.

Climate change is not to blame for the sudden rain, he added.

"Winter starts from October but the rain varies every year," he said. "It's weather variability but it's a good sign that we got so much rain."



For more on the UAE weather forecast, visit our page.