Residents interact with vendors at the farmers market held at the Shahama branch of the Abu Dhabi Farmers Service Centre Souq. Image Credit: Hadrian Hernandez/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi residents can now purchase fresh produce directly from local farmers thanks to an initiative by a government agency.

The Abu Dhabi Farmers Service Centre (ADFSC), which is behind the farmers market in Shahama on Fridays, is working on ways to open similar outlets for farm produce in more residential areas soon, an official spokesman of ADFSC told Gulf News.

Emirati farmers could be seen selling fresh vegetables, dates, eggs, honey and live birds directly to customers at the market last Friday. Demand was particularly good for live birds from local farms, apart from vegetables.

Farmers sold ducks, chickens, and quail for meat as well doves, pigeons, roosters and chicks to be kept as pets.

The Shahama market operates every Friday, from 4 pm to 10 pm, in front of the ADFSC Souq supermarket near the bus station in Shahama.

Farms across Abu Dhabi grow some 42 kinds of vegetables and fruits, with cucumber and potato making for the bulk of the produce. About 14,000 farmers work with the centre across the emirate and a 1,000 of them supply their produce to the centre. The ADFSC brands the locally sourced produce as ‘Local Harvest’ and markets it through 15 ADFSC Souq supermarkets across the emirate, besides prominent retail chains.

“We look at the weekly farmers market as another way to open up marketing channels to local farmers and link our souq outlets to the community it serves,” a top official told Gulf News. “They don’t have to deal with a middle man, and they can charge whatever they want,” said Chris Hirst, CEO of ADFSC.

“And they [the farmers market ventures] offer a particularly engaging way for farmers to share details about what they do with the public while also giving them a chance to share ideas with other farmers. It’s a way for the community to come together,” Hirst said.

The next weekly market is likely to open in Al Baniyas on Saturdays with a third due at Al Mina on Thursdays. Both new ventures will be located adjacent to ADFSC Souqs.

Each farmer is in charge of his or her business at the weekly markets and no fee is charged on those putting up stalls. The ADFSC also arranges a separate stall for its ‘Local Harvest’ brand of products.

The success of the first market which opened on February 1 with the participation of 20 farmers drew in more farmers last week with 30 stalls selling vegetable and related produce and 20 stalls for live birds.

ADFSC said the weekly market will operate until June, which marks the end of the winter season. The summer season is not conducive to such markets in view of the fall in local productivity, the spokesman said.

The ADFSC is working to a production target of 40,000 tonnes of farm products until June, which is more than a 100 per cent increase from the previous winter’s production of 16,000 tonnes.

ADFSC Souqs offer central locations for many communities such as Baniyas, Madinat Zayed (in the Western Region) and Al Jimi (Al Ain), where the community can come together to take advantage of increased opportunities.