Changes in the agriculture sector
Agriculture is an old activity in the United Arab Emirates practised in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain and in some oases, such as the Liwa oasis.The sector developed rapidly since 1971, despite problems due to the scarcity of water resources and arable land, soil salinity, difficult environmental conditions, high production costs, agricultural pests and post-harvest losses.
Agriculture has become an economic activity that relies on the use of the latest technologies. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan played a significant role in the evolution and development of the agriculture sector in the country.
Huge efforts were made to preserve water resources, with emphasis on promoting the adoption and installation of modern irrigation systems to replace flood irrigation method, which wastes large amounts of water. The use of modern irrigation systems (sprinkler, drip and fountain irrigation systems) rose to 91 per cent in 2011 from 32 per cent in 1999.
The number of farms increased from 4,000 in 1971 to 35,704 in 2011, with an area of 105,257 hectares. As a result of the UAE's efforts, there are now 54 organic vegetation farms, three animal production farms and one manufacturing facility. The organic production area in the UAE increased to 3920 hectares by the end of 2013.
The UAE's Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has put a priority on increasing the use of hydroponic technology among farmers, which relies on nutrient-rich water to grow plants with the use of little or no soil. The method saves up to 70 per cent of water, while allowing for a longer growing season and avoiding harmful chemicals. To date, there are 87 commercial farms using this technology.