NAT UAE RICE FILE-1599401446483
The UAE's first rice field in Al Dhaid, Sharjah. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Preparations are underway for the launch of the second experimental phase of a landmark rice cultivation project in the UAE after a successful first harvest in June, officials announced on Sunday.

In its first phase that ran from November 2019 to May 2020, the project achieved success in cultivating japonica and indica rice on an area of 2,200 square meters. The two varieties proved capable of withstanding UAE’s high temperatures and local soil conditions.

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The pilot phase had yielded 763kg of rice per 1,000 square metres of land, Gulf News had reported in June.

Sunday’s announcement of a second phase followed a recent tour by Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) of the ministry’s Agricultural Innovation Centre in Al Dhaid, a region of Sharjah.

He inspected preparations for the latest phase of the rice cultivation project at the centre, in cooperation with the Rural Development Administration (RDA) of the Republic of Korea.

Watch: Rice crop in the UAE

Expanding rice footprint across UAE

In talks with the Korean team, the minister explored possibilities of developing rice cultivation projects in the UAE to increase production and reduce water demand in order to expand the footprints of this staple crop across the country.

Dr Al Nuaimi said: “Building innovation capabilities is one of the basic pillars of developing the agricultural sector and achieving food security and sustainability — currently a top priority for the UAE. Therefore, MOCCAE seeks to strengthen cooperation with all UAE entities active in the agricultural sector as well as independent innovators to identify solutions to increase the volume of local agricultural production and raise its efficiency.”

Boosting food security

He also toured Al Foah’s date receiving centre and the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium at Sharjah Research Academy. The visit was part of the ministry’s efforts to enhance food security in the UAE.

Sultan Alwan, acting undersecretary of MOCCAE, and Saif Al Shara, assistant undersecretary for the Sustainable Communities Sector, accompanied the minister during his visit.

During his visit to Sharjah Research Academy, Dr Al Nuaimi reviewed advancements in the research and development of high-yielding crop varieties that can adapt to the country’s climatic conditions, in addition to climate-resilient varieties.

During his visit to the date receiving centre of Al Foah, the UAE’s flagship date producer, the minister examined the requirements for increasing date production in the country and boosting the global competitiveness of the product.

Dr Al Nuaimi met the centre’s officials to discuss the possibility of leveraging its presence in the agricultural region of Al Dhaid to sell date waste to local livestock farms as animal feed.