UAE farms backed by Khalifa Fund bear fruit for local supermarkets

The efforts of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development have started bearing fruit.

Organic farmers financed by the fund are now supplying locally grown produce to supermarkets across the country.

From last Wednesday, three farms under the Zaarie programme have been supplying the fruit to Dubai-based Union Co-op outlets. The farms grow about 60 tonnes of tomatoes a month.

“We expect this amount will be doubled when the other farms start production in the coming three months,” said Ahmed Al Romaithi, the manager of the Zaarie programme at the fund.

The programme started last year and now has 40 members, all in Abu Dhabi emirate. The remaining 37 farms are expected to start producing by the end of the year. In January, funding of Dh130 million was approved for 130 farms under the programme.

The Khalifa Fund said it would organise the transportation of the produce to retailers in partnership with Massar, an Abu Dhabi-based transport company.

Union Co-op operates 11 hypermarkets in Dubai and manages markets under Ajman Markets Cooperative Society, which has three branches.

The programme is expected to increase the share of local produce in the UAE markets by about 10 per cent.

All the organic farms taking part in the Zaarie programme utilise hydroponic technology, a farming technique that does not use soil.

Awareness about the locally grown produce, and its uptake among the local population, is growing, said a Lulu Group spokesman.

Abu Dhabi-based Lulu Group, which operates 53 hypermarkets and supermarkets in the UAE, started procuring locally grown vegetables and fruits from 2013.

“We saw the need for a platform where the local produce can be displayed and marketed in the UAE,” said a Lulu spokesman. “The market is still dominated by imported produce, from nearby markets and others, but we have seen a healthy growth of local produce.”

About 60 per cent of the produce sourced from farms in the UAE is organic, he said.

Lulu buys cucumbers, capsicum, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and leafy vegetables from 37 such farms across the UAE.

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