Abu Dhabi: Shoppers in the UAE can now purchase locally grown organic produce, thanks to a public-private programme that aims to support the local organic farming industry.
The initiative is a collaboration between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and LuLu Hypermarket. The first phase of the programme was officially launched last week at Lulu Hypermarket in Mushrif Mall, Abu Dhabi. The programme will be rolled out gradually in all LuLu hypermarkets across the emirates.
V. Nandakumar, chief communications officer at LuLu Group, said: “LuLu being a UAE-based company has always tried to support the local business community, and part of that has been helping the local farming community. We have noticed lately that there is a lot of locally grown organic produce with many farmers and agriculture companies, so we in association with the ministry have started an initiative to procure and sell this local organic produce in all of our hypermarkets in the UAE.
“The main idea is to bring the organic produce to the consumer, and naturally our hypermarkets have a lot of customers everyday, and so to have these products displayed and sold [at our hypermarkets] is a great platform to support the local farming community.”
Nandakumar explained that LuLu’s partnership with the minstry went beyond merely buying and selling organic products, and that the programme extended to supporting the farmers with the means and logistics of getting their products from their farms and to the supermarket.
“We are working closely with the ministry to identity the farms which are farming the organic produce. With these farms we then help them pack their products in a good way to be sold, and to also help them with the logistics of transporting their produce from the farm to the store. So it’s more than just buying and selling their organic produce,” he said.
“Packaging and processing is very important when it comes to selling to a market environment. We also make sure that the quality [of the organic produce] is good. Our procurement people visit these farms regularly to check and see that everything is being followed [according to regulations] to sell in our stores,” he added.
Nandakumar said he expected high demand for locally-grown organic produce, citing previous success with selling locally farmed vegetables.
“Our hypermarkets have been selling locally grown vegetables for three years now. When we first started, we sold produce worth roughly Dh1.3 million in a year, whereas now we sell produce worth close to Dh4 million. With the organic farming push, we expect to sell almost Dh6 million worth of local produce,” he added.
High sales is good news for local farmers, according to Nandakumar, as it will encourage them to invest more in organic farming.
“It’s like a cycle, once the products start selling more, the farmers will need to produce more, and when they need to produce more they will have to invest in technology and innovation which will have a very good effect [on the industry],” he said.
“There is a higher demand for organic products. Today, the younger population is very health conscious, and they are aware of the many positive affects of organic products. We see a very big demand for a range of organic products… [Organic products] were not a big business in the past, but now we see a high demand for them,” Nandakumar added.