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Mon 9 May 2011 07:56 PM

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Abu Dhabi to pay grants to farmers for saving water

Farmers will receive over $27,000 a year from August in bid to raise bar on farming practices

Abu Dhabi to pay grants to farmers for saving water
Abu Dhabi will begin to pay grants of up to around $30,000 per year to farmers to refrain from water-intensive cultivation. (Getty Images)

Abu Dhabi will begin to pay grants of up to around $30,000 per year to farmers to refrain from water-intensive cultivation in the Gulf emirate, its food control authority said on Monday.

The conditions tied to the disbursal of government assistance will raise the bar on farming practices in the emirate in terms of profitability and environmental soundness, said Mohamed Jalal al-Reyaysa, head of communication and community service at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA).

"Non-cultivation of animal feeds, especially the water-intensive Rhodes grass, is one of the principal conditions for receiving government aid," he said in a statement.

"Animal growers among the farmers are, however, permitted to cultivate feeds in a limited area for feeding their privately owned livestock."

The farmers will receive 100,000 dirhams ($27,230) per year in cash in addition to other aid beginning in August, Reyaysa told Reuters by telephone.

Abu Dhabi is estimated to consume 550 litres of water per person per day - two to three times the world average of 180-200 litres.

To ease groundwater use, about 60 percent of consumption in the desert country, the UAE has invested heavily in desalination, producing 9 million cubic metres of water daily at $18 million a day.

The payment of grants will be only to farmers who comply with the rules and regulations on preservation of water resources and the modernisation of farming in the emirate, the ADFCA said in the statement.

If farmers stop the cultivation of Rhodes grass, a species of forage grass cultivated in dry regions, they will be entitled to the grant.

Concerned about regional unrest, the UAE has said it will spend $1.6 billion to improve infrastructure in less developed northern emirates, has raised military pensions by 70 percent and has introduced bread and rice subsidies. Sources have said plans to hike fuel prices were also delayed.

"With the grants, they will have other fruits and vegetables they will be able to market through the Farmers' Services Centre. So the total amount will be higher than the amount of the grant," the official said, adding there were 25,000 farms in Abu Dhabi.

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