Saudi and UAE put spotlight on organic products

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

'Organic farming is lacking sufficient investment'
'Organic farming is lacking sufficient investment'

Related tags: Organic products, Organic farming, United arab emirates, Organic food

Authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE say they are increasing inspections of organic products, both imported and home-grown, in order to protect consumers.

The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) announced this month it will work with the Ministry of Agriculture to monitor organic food products produced in the country for domestic consumption, as well as for export, more closely. It will also continue to monitor imports of organic food.

In the UAE, a Dubai Municipality official said all organic products for sale in the emirate will need to be registered with the municipality’s public health and safety department. This is apparently in addition to existing requirements to have organic products certified by the national body Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).

Saudi’s organic struggles

According to media reports in the Arabic press, many Saudi farmers are struggling with the requirements of organic agriculture, and several farms have stopped using organic methods altogether. Authorities estimate there are around 150 organic farms in Saudi Arabia, up from just 10 in 2007, with a total area of around 35,000 hectares.

Organic farming in the kingdom is lacking sufficient investment. It is a field that is facing many obstacles such as a lack of consumer awareness on the difference between organic and non-organic products, lack of sufficient organic seeds, fertilisers and pesticides available for farmers, a lack of experts and agricultural engineers in the Kingdom and the need to import organic products​,” said Sultan Al-Thunayyan, deputy head of the Council of Saudi Chambers' agricultural committee, quoted in Arabic daily Al-Riyadh.

Last month the Ministry of Agriculture launched a new campaign to increase awareness of organic products in the Saudi market, and to promote the use of the Saudi Organic label, introduced in 2011. The promotion consisted of organic food festivals, held at 20 branches of Danube supermarkets, along with a social media campaign.

This is the second public awareness campaign; the first was implemented three years ago. It aims at spreading organic agriculture awareness, introducing organic products and its benefits to the Saudi society​,” said Ayman Al-Ghamdi, director general of the Department of Organic Agriculture at the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, during the inauguration of the initiative.

UAE pushes certification

In the UAE, Esma has been certifying the country’s organic farms since 2012, following the introduction of legislation. But under Dubai Municipality’s new rules, products sold in the emirate would also need to be tested by accredited labs, to ensure they are free of pesticides, hormones and chemicals.

These tests would apply to food produced in the UAE, as well as imports. For imported products, the municipality would investigate any certification issued in countries of origin, as well as require local tests.

As of now Dubai Municipality has not said when these new rules will come into force.  

Related topics: Middle East

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