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Sun 6 Sep 2009 11:01 AM

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UAE farm giant calls for action on cheap imports

Agricultural firm Mirak says protectionist measures needed to help farmers compete.

One of the UAE’s largest agricultural firms has called for protectionist measures to help local farmers, amid fears domestic farms are losing out to cheaper imported produce.

Nejdeh Ghadimi, assistant managing director of Mirak, which owns some 200 acres of farmland in the UAE, has said the government is failing to do enough to help its farmers compete with subsidised produce from abroad.

“We will never be self-sufficient unless the government restricts imports,” said Ghadimi. “That’s why there are so few [agricultural] companies here.

The UAE imports an estimated 90 percent of its foodstuffs, as the country’s arid climate is poorly suited to cultivating farmland.

“I’d like to see protectionist measures – what is done in the rest of the world, where import taxes are greater on certain products to push up their market price.”

Mirak grows predominately lettuce and strawberries on its UAE farms, and sells 60 percent of its produce in its home market. It favours hydroponic farming, where plants are grown in a mineral solution, rather than soil.

The firm competes with produce shipped in from Egypt and Iran, where local farmers receive government handouts to offset industry costs. Egyptian farmers, for example, receive transport subsidies to temper the cost of exporting their produce abroad.

“It means Egyptian farmers can bring their strawberries here and sell them at a price that is pretty close to our finishing cost,” said Ghadimi. “That’s the main obstruction that we have.

Ghadimi would like to see the UAE adopt a protectionist model similar to that seen in Iran, and other farming countries.

“The government is creating a market for their farmers there. People who want to import produce pay higher taxes, so selling the local produce is cheaper. And there are limits on volume too, which we don’t have here. Our import taxes are so low, they don’t make a difference.”

Christian 10 years ago

In the EU we had decades of subsidies on everything from milkproducts to meat and this for export only. The finally saw the light and stopped all this. Now everybody pays the same price. If you can not sustian on your own you have no right of living subsidies are definatly not the right way. UAE governement should only allow fair trade items in the country.