x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE moves to regulate organic food production

The Ministry of Environment and Water has appointed - but not named - an officer responsible for drafting the laws and regulations needed for the country to protect and trace its organic food.

A customer holds kale and rocket at an organic produce shop in Jumeirah. The law will require such items to be properly labelled.
A customer holds kale and rocket at an organic produce shop in Jumeirah. The law will require such items to be properly labelled.

DUBAI // The UAE has taken a further step towards regulating and certifying organic food.

The Ministry of Environment and Water has appointed - but not named - an officer responsible for drafting the laws and regulations needed for the country to protect and trace its organic food.

"It's in the process of happening now and the ministry is very active," said André Leu, the president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, which has members in 116 countries.

"They've appointed someone who's very competent, he's an expert and I'm fully confident this will happen."

Mr Leu was in Dubai last week for the Meveg Seminar 2012, part of the Middle East Natural and Organic Product Expo 2012. The exhibition is the region's only event for organic and natural products.

The law will require organic food to be properly labelled. "The regulations are currently getting written up," said Mr Leu. "The government then has to turn them into a law."

Two weeks ago the ministry approved 18 farms for organic branding. It wants to put in place a certification regime that allows organic food grown locally to be sold as such internationally.

"The ministry said they spoke to the minister of the Philippines to have [an equivalency agreement] like the US and Canada once the law is ratified," said Mr Leu. "It's a good step."

That requires clear labelling and traceability. "Having open trade and equivalence with similar systems is the right way to go," said Mr Leu.

"Organic is organic and they're equally good. Instead of putting an extra block on trade and killing our own trade, we can free it up and still ensure the credibility of the product."

Mr Leu's organisation is strengthening its presence in the region, with plans to open offices in Abu Dhabi and Tehran by April.

"It's very important for our region to start an organic movement," said Dr Reza Ardakani, an expert in organic agriculture and certification processes. "Organic is growing very rapidly around the world and we must accelerate organic production in our region."

He said neighbouring countries should also start producing organic food. "There is a great potential for producing certain kinds of [items] which cannot be produced in other parts of the world," said Dr Ardakani. "Local productions are missing here and as an organism in our ecosystem, we must use our own local food."

cmalek@thenational.ae