Elite Agro (EAG), a leading UAE producer and distributor of fresh produce, is increasing its supply of locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to create a two-fold benefit of strengthening national food security, while reducing its carbon footprint in the market.
Currently, only 20% of fruits and vegetables consumed in the UAE are grown locally; the rest are imported from around the world. According to the Abu Dhabi Statistics Centre and Dubai Statistics Centre, the combined 2019 local production of crops, fruits, and vegetables amounted to 523,297 tonnes.
Fruits and vegetables grown around the world need to be stored for days and have lengthy transport times before they reach UAE supermarket shelves. This means reduced freshness and a higher carbon footprint.
By producing and supplying fresh produce locally, EAG saved 13,258 tonnes of carbon emissions from tomatoes when compared to airfreight imports from Holland and Spain. It also saved 1,501 tonnes of carbon emissions for equivalent airfreight imports of blueberries from the US, and is set to save at least 425 tonnes of carbon emissions for equivalent sea freight imports of potatoes from Egypt this year.
The UAE’s agricultural industry has been gradually increasing its contribution to the local market in recent years, in line with the National Food Security Strategy 2018. The pandemic has triggered a significant momentum for local production, increased the number of health-conscious consumers looking for fresh produce, and raised awareness on climate change and sustainability.
Said Dr Abdulmonem Almarzooqi, Elite Agro’s Divisional CEO: “With the rising demand for locally-produced food, along with increasing health awareness among the consumers and the adoption of new technologies to optimise production, we expect the market to continue its steady growth over the coming years.”
In 2020, the UAE Cabinet approved a national system for sustainable agriculture. This includes improving the efficiency of farms and increasing self-sufficiency of the targeted agricultural crops by 5%. It also aims to reduce the amount of water used for irrigation by 15% annually and drive industry-wide adoption of sustainable agri-tech.
“We’re proud to contribute towards the national food security through local production at our farms. This plays an important role in mitigating the impact of global warming, not only through sustainable farming techniques, but also by reducing the carbon footprint of the logistics involved in bringing fresh produce to the shelves,” said Dr. Abdulmonem Al Marzooqi.
Last year, EAG farms in the UAE supplied 17,447 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to the local market. As the largest potato producer and the exclusive blueberry producer in the UAE, in addition to a wide range of crops, the company’s strategy is to enhance the resilience of the UAE’s agricultural industry, provide high-quality fresh produce, and reduce its carbon footprint.
EAG uses a combination of eco-friendly, sustainable, and modern farming solutions and practices in its UAE farms to minimise the use of natural resources and optimise crop yield. These include fully automated planting-to-harvesting methods, advanced adaptive irrigation, integrated pest management, and post-harvest management.
Across the deserts of the UAE, EAG owns four farms, which produce several types of fruits, vegetables, and crops and supplies to local supermarkets. While most types of produce are grown in greenhouses, EAG uses advanced evaporative cooler technologies that reduce energy consumption. Along with short cooling and storage periods, the company is able to supply produce with a longer shelf life. Through this approach, EAG is supporting the UAE’s food security by supplying fresher, more affordable, and more sustainable local produce.