A worker plucks tomatoes at a farm in Al Ain. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: About 1,200 farms working with the Abu Dhabi Farmers Service Centre (ADFSC) are expected to produce 10,000 tonnes more vegetables than last season during the upcoming agricultural season, a senior official told Gulf News.

The farms will produce 38,000 tonnes of vegetables worth Dh60 million during the 2014-2015 season that begins in November this year and ends in October 2015. This is an upward trend, compared with 28,000 tonnes of total production worth Dh45 million during the last season [2013-2014], Marten Aguirre, Commercial and Operations Director at ADFSC, said.

ADFSC is an Abu Dhabi Government organisation responsible for developing sustainable agriculture in the emirate.

He spoke to Gulf News on the sidelines of a press conference at the centre in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to announce its winter crop plan along with senior officials.

The winter season that begins in November this year and ends in June 2015 will see the production of 30,000 of a total of 38,000 tonnes of total produce during the year-long season. The summer season beginning in July 2015 and ending in October 2015 will produce the remaining 8,000 tonnes, Aguirre said.

The total number of crops will be reduced to 36 in this season from 42 last season. “That’s because we don’t focus on [six] second-grade produce that were the by-products of major crops. All 36 crops will be first-grade produce in the upcoming season,” Aguirre said.

Although Abu Dhabi emirate has around 24,000 farms, only between 3,000 and 4,000 farms have quality water to produce vegetables, Chris Hirst, the CEO of the centre said at the press conference. About 1,200 of them have contract with ADFSC for developing and implementing a sustainable crop plan and marketing the produce.

It is not clear how many other farms regularly produce vegetables but their market share is not significant according to feedback from the market, Aguirre said. Their market share figure was not available with the centre as they directly market the produce, he said.

The latest market share figure of local produce in Abu Dhabi was not readily available with the officials. However, an Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi report in 2011 had said local farm produce constituted 15 per cent of the total market share in Abu Dhabi.

During the 21-week-long winter season, around a thousand tonnes of vegetables may be produced a week when production is at its peak, of which around 300 tonnes will be cucumber. Cucumber has the highest demand in the market and farmers are well-experienced in its farming, Aguirre said.

The centre has asked farmers to submit their expression of interest to implement its winter crop plan by July 15. Those farms that make a contract with the centre will get Minimum Guaranteed Price (MGP) that covers the production cost of their produce even when the market price goes below MGP. This has been a major attraction for the farmers, Hirst said.

The centre collects a commission from farmers for marketing their produce when the market price is above MGP. That fund is used to support the farmers when the market price is below MGP, the official said.

The centre sells the produce to 40 clients, including wholesale traders, retailers, military, and the hotels, restaurant and caterers (HORECA) sector. Its souqs across the emirate also sell the produce branded as “Local Harvest”.