100 million Dirhams to establish Agricultural Investment Fund

WAM ABU DHABI, 15th December, 2013 (WAM) — Khalifa Ahmed Al Ali, Managing Director of the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC) has announced the launch of the Agricultural Investment Fund, with a budget estimated at AED100 million spent evenly over five years to support and finance the use of modern farming techniques, including hydroponics in greenhouses.

The aim of the Fund, which will spend about 20 million Dirhams per year until 2017, is to achieve sustainability and contribute to the dissemination of a food security umbrella in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Fund will be implemented in partnership between the ADFSC and the Food Security Centre in Abu Dhabi (FSCAD) in the farms of the emirate.

In a press conference held yesterday on the margins of the Zayed Heritage Festival events in Al Wathbah, Al Ali said that the Agricultural Investment Fund is a development programme including a range of services and financing and non- financing facilities to support farmers in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The focus, in the first phase, will be on the support and development of hydroponics agriculture in the emirate. The aim is to contribute to the increase and enhancement of food security and the development of the agriculture sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This programme will include other techniques and practices in the field of agriculture in the coming years.

“The project consists of the establishment of a soft loan fund to finance agricultural projects; the fund will cover 50% of the total cost of the project, while the beneficiary farmer will cover the rest of the costs. The farmer will pay the value of the loan (interest-free) over five years, deducted from the revenues of marketing the project products. If the farm has existing greenhouses, they must meet the criteria and specifications of greenhouses approved by the ADFSC. However, in case of installing new greenhouses, the farmer covers 50% of the total cost of the greenhouses and the hydroponics system, paid in advance,” he added.

“In order for the farmer to register in the fund, the farmer needs to meet several conditions, the most important of which is to sign the project work plan for a period of five years with the ADFSC, a supply agreement for the same duration to ensure the payment of the loan. The applicant should be a member and shall give the ADFSC the authority to evaluate and monitor the progress of the project. Moreover, the farm should comply with the water requirements in terms of quantity and quality plus electricity supply requirements in addition to attending the training programme” The fund aims to encourage farmers to introduce modern agricultural techniques with a view to enhancing the sustainability of the agriculture sector and reduce harmful effects on the environment. Also, to contribute to the food security system, develop the skills of local farmers through the introduction of new farming techniques and the adoption of the best agricultural practices. The other objective is to contribute to the transfer of advanced technologies in the agricultural sector, improve farm productivity in terms of quantity and quality and enhance the farmers’ income by increasing the productivity of existing and new investments.

Different techniques of hydroponics in greenhouses help to make optimal use of water resources in the country. Hydroponics also provide the necessary protection for products against the local harsh weather conditions and pests. It provides them with ideal growing conditions and enables farmers to produce throughout the year and with high efficiency, which contributes significantly to the enhancement of food security for the U.A.E.. The use of hydroponics techniques in greenhouses does not require the use of soil, which means that the local low-fertility soil will not pose a problem to production.

Hydroponics in greenhouses is considered an economical alternative to traditional crops in open fields to grow crops of economic value and good qualities as it produces the largest quantity and with a better quality in less space and better economically feasible character for most crops.

Christopher Hirst, ADFSC CEO, said that the ADFSC would provide all forms of technical support to beneficiary farmers, will work to develop their farms, and encourage them to adopt the latest technologies and agricultural techniques likely to reduce water consumption and increase the quality and efficiency of production. The ADFSC objective is to contribute to the increase and enhancement of food security and the development of the agriculture sector in Abu Dhabi.

He pointed out that the implementation of the project will go through several stages; the process of registration at the Customer Service in the ADFSC Head Office, followed by the farm assessment by a specialised technical team and in accordance with clear criteria and requirements, plus the process of selecting beneficiaries, and ending with organising the training programme.

WAM/MZ/CM

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