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AU delegation learns about horticultural productivity in extreme environments in UAE

A delegation of fruit and vegetable growers and representatives from Queensland’s Granite Belt and Lockyer Valley regions have recently returned from a study tour of the Unites Arab Emirates (UAE).

The practical “classroom,” focused on learning about farming techniques in a harsh and arid environment.  Despite wide open desert plains, the UAE region produces significant amounts of local fresh produce including high-quality tomatoes, capsicums, leafy vegetables such as lettuce and berries.

The group discovered how innovative techniques and technology can enable horticultural productivity in extreme environments and produce high quality fresh produce that meets the demands of consumers. Key challenges addressed by local farming systems included poor water quality due to salinity, climatic extremes including temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius for weeks on end and limited or no rainfall for more than eight months of the year.

“We are experiencing one of the worst droughts in history in our region, so the trip was a fantastic opportunity to learn from those that farm successfully with these conditions all of the time” said Orazio Cannavo -  tomato and capsicum producer from the Granite Belt. “It has shown us that nothing is impossible and that despite the climate forecasts the problems we face shouldn’t be impossible to overcome”.

The group visited commercial fruit and vegetable businesses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi including Elite Agro, Alfafa, Emirates Hydroponic Farm and a Gracia Group farm. The delegation also visited the Al Aweer Fruit and Vegetable Markets, an importers facility and numerous retail outlets to gain insight into the key international competitors and retail price points for fresh produce in the region.

Tim Sweet from Sweet’s Strawberry Runners based near Stanthorpe on the Granite Belt said: “It was incredible to see revolutionary technology like atmospheric water harvesting in-action at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture. Everyone on the delegation picked up at least one idea that they will now try and apply to their own business operations”.

The project partners will share further learnings from the tour to the wider vegetable and berry industries over the coming months. The tour was part of a project managed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, supported by the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture in the UAE and funded by CAAR - the Council for Australian-Arab Relations.

For more information: 
Clinton McGrath
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

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