UAE-based private utility firm Utico has unveiled a new sustainable farm support programme that includes free water supply to UAE farmers, guaranteed buy-back of their produce and scientific advisory services.
The programme was announced at an event held by the Environment Protection and Development Authority (EPDA), Ras Al Khaimah, to mark the International Day of Happiness. It comes in support of 2017 as the `Year of Giving’ Initiative of the UAE.
“The programme is very much in line with ensuring happiness of farmers and will contribute to the UAE’s food security initiatives,” said Dr Saif Al Gais, director-general of EPDA, during the event, which was attended by many farmers.
In the first phase, the programme will span the Northern Emirates, catering to an estimated 3,000 farms across Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Sharjah. Utico said the free water supply and farm support initiatives will be extended to other emirates in the second phase.
“The programme will address the water supply issues, and the expert advisory Utico will provide will help farmers increase production through incorporating scientific farming methods that are found to work well in arid conditions,” Richard Menezes, managing director of Utico, said.
“We are already working with Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa) and Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa). The programme can be implemented in any farm location where Utico, Fewa or Sewa network is available and accessible.”
The service will be provided with mutual consent of all parties and can be accessed by farmers by sending a mail to a SustainFarm@Utico.com.
Under the programme, farmers will be categorised into two sections — farms owned and tilled and commercial farms. There are two programme options — free water with produce buy-back, or water purchase, which starts with the lowest water tariff in the UAE of 1.8fils/gallon.
Utico’s programme will help farmers increase produce, reduce or remove subsidy on the state and increase the farmers’ income.
Farmers will be given advice on incorporating sustainable farming techniques designed by Utico, which have been implemented by the company during the past three years.
About 95 per cent of the UAE’s food needs are imported and farming generally includes animal husbandry and livestock, other than agricultural farm produce. About 80 per cent of the UAE farming comprises date cultivation with about one crop a year. According to Utico, there is ample scope for many crops that can add greater value with water being available.
Menezes said the programme will help improve barren land prices and increase food production in the UAE, leading to fresher produce as well as farm-to-home and farm-to-store systems that lower the carbon footprint.