Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Environment ministry inspects organic farms

15 March 2011, The Gulf Today

THE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) carried out a nationwide inspection visits, since the beginning of this year, at a total of 51 farms, which includes organic farms and agricultural lands that are currently being transformed to organic farms.
The inspections aimed at monitoring the actual cultivated space at these sites, the quantity of production for each crop, and compliance to the requirements for organic agricultural practices, a spokesperson of the ministry said.
According to him, the ministry’s efforts are towards making the standards for organic farming in the UAE comparable to other developed countries in the world.
The federal Law No.5 of 2009 regarding organic products outlines strict guidelines on the production of organic food in the UAE to encourage the local agricultural sector and boost the stocks of locally grown fresh produces.
Specialists at the environment ministry certify organic farms, after thoroughly testing the soil quality at their premises at three different levels, including ground level, 60cm depth and 120cm depth. The crop samples were also tested during three different stages of growth to pick up any traces of chemicals.
“The technical team of the MoEW collected samples of soil, water and fruits for detailed analysis at the MoEW’s central lab.  The inspectors provided a number of solutions to farmers and owners of the organic farms, including a list of organic fertilisers and organic pesticides available in the market. The farmers also were educated on the pest control and mechanism to prevent diseases that might affect the crops. The authority will also issue scientific guides to the farmers on the practices and fertilisation procedures at the organic farms," said the MoEW official.
“The ministry targets production of higher volume of organic foods to raise the level of food security and standards of food safety in the country. The organic agriculture practices should be ensured of adherence to the regulations in different stages of production and their distribution,” he noted.
“The MoEW has scheduled periodic follow-up visits, after issuing certificates based on the verification of the farming and irrigation methods, organic fertilisation, processing of the lands for the planting season, cleanliness, and inspection of storing facilities.”
According to a 2010 statistics, the UAE had 13 organic farms with 23 more being developed before the end of 2011. The first farm to be certified was in Sharjah in 2005, which produced organic vegetables and dates.
The MoEW had planned to develop 3,000 hectares of dedicated organic farming agricultural land, even though the production process might face hindrances due to the arid desert climate.
The organic food produces are of higher quality, safer for human consumption, and free from residues of pesticides and all forms of pollutants. Such farming system permanently maintains the fertility of the soil in the long run.
The MoEW insists on the organic farms that they must be free from sewage or treated sewage water and should be located far from chemical plants, cement factories and highways or air polluted areas.
“Mineral fertilisers and chemical pesticides, and potassium nitrate or sodium are not permitted for use in the organic agricultural system. The organic pesticides are natural and biological resistant products that prevent insects or fungus,” said a statement from the MoEW.
“The use of hormones and growth regulators such urea, nitrate, sulfate, ammonia, ammonium nitrate, sulfate, potassium, magnesium and phosphate also should not be used at these premises,” it said.
(Pix : Supplied)