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Tue 22 Mar 2011 01:11 PM

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Local farming in UAE is 'stupid' says organics CEO

Carbon footprint of local food can be higher than imported produce, says Nils El Accad

Local farming in UAE is 'stupid' says organics CEO
Imported organic food can be more environmentally friendly that UAE-grown produce, said the CEO of Dubai-based Organic Foods and Café

Food farmed in the UAE can carry a higher carbon footprint than certain imported organic food, the CEO of Dubai-based Organic Foods and
Café said.

“Most farmers rely upon desalinated water, which means the
carbon footprint of food grown using it is much higher than if you air freight
it in,” said Nils El Accad.

Using natural ground water on the other hand has
implications for food security, believes El Accad.

“Farmers not using desalinated water are using ground water,
which they put through reverse osmosis. In these farming areas they have pumped
out so much water that it’s already salty and it’s becoming saltier and
saltier,” said El Accad.

“If there ever were food security issues and we were cut off
the water would be way too salty to use it by that time. They’re taking the
most critical and important resource that we have and squandering it. We don’t
have water here, it’s a stupid idea to farm without water.”

According to El Accad, the most sustainable and environmentally friendly option
is to import organically farmed food from nearby countries that have higher
supplies of the elements needed to farm organically: labour, good quality soil
and water.

“The organic food we import from Egypt starts as carbon
negative, because the farm composts a lot and trap a lot of carbon in the soil,
and it also doesn’t use the chemical fertilizers and pesticides which have a
carbon footprint,” said El Accad. “So this offsets the air freight miles to
make the food carbon neutral.”

El Accad proposes Pakistan as the answer to the sustainable
food question for the UAE:

“We should be buying up land in Pakistan and teaching them
to farm organically. Pakistan has a plentiful supply of water, soil and labour,
as well as good political relations with the UAE,” he said.

Naveen Shetty 8 years ago

Buying land in Pakistan for growing food to secure the supplies is nothing but big joke. I wonder from where the CEO of Organic Foods and Café came up with this idea. There is no rule of law in Pakistan which is plagued by political instability. Pakistan will have to ensure their own food supplies before they can give land to outsiders for commercial farming.

Tafline Laylin 8 years ago

I don't think there is any clear answer to this question: although water scarcity is a real concern in the Middle East, it's not really practical, as Naveen says, to usurp land from Pakistan or Africa for that matter, given the challenges each of those countries face. The UAE should consider water conservation and recycling initiatives first, and cultivate crops that require very little water. Additionally, every Emirati would benefit from growing their own food at home, using grey water that is free of harmful chemicals. - Managing Editor, Green Prophet.

Gunnar Rundgren 8 years ago

I did a job for the ministry of agriculture in the UAE some ten years ago, about the development of organic agriculture in UAE. My conclusion was quite the same: Date palms, sheep and camels are the traditional food produced in these very dry areas, and they can be produced sustainably. But all the vegetables, the strawberries and other food are better produced where there is more water around. Alternatively they can use waste water for irrigation of the food crops - now they use it for golf courses and lawns - equally ridiculous things in a desert. For using waste water they need to change their consumption patterns and use less harmful stuff.

Noor 7 years ago

You are highly mistaken. The suggestion he proposed about importing food from Egypt and buying land in Pakistan can be very feasible for both the countries. it is true there is high political instability in Pakistan but agriculture and textile sectors are the most thriving in Pakistan and are relatively much less affected by political unrest.
obviously UAE will not just simply buy land and get things done. there would be proper procedures and limitation and to tell you the truth Pakistan does highly respect UAE and its laws. It won't be operating the same way it does for local production.

Butt 7 years ago

Has it ever occured to you that he as CEO of Oganic foods probably knows a "little" more than an average indian Joe whose knowledge based is based on Doordarsan type media broadcasts?

This is not suprise why people are interested in Pakistan, the soil is excellent for food growth. The interesting thing is Agriculture developed rapidly in the 1960s, however lack of investment has let stangnation of food production, for example Pakistan still produces roughtly the same tonnage as it did the 1960s!..

the real issue is of Feudal lords whether will allow modernisation of farms, after all they need the scores of underprivliaged farmer to toil for them and then at election time ensure they vote for them....

Harvery McIntosh-King 7 years ago

OK you have a good point but my question is, if you feel so strongly about organically grown foods being produced here in the UAE, then why does Organic Cafe sell some of the locally produced organic products at much higher prices than the local farmers market and why are Organic Cafe selling them at all? I suggest you should try selling your vegetables and fruits at a lower price then in turn would attract more people to buy. The general public with families cannot afford to be organic with high prices even if they want to be, it is just not feasable.
Surely we should try and buy as many products locally manufactured and produced regardless of what countries we live in - this has to be the best way for job opportunities and economic development, yes or no?