The number of farmers growing quinoa in the UAE is increasing as more resilient strands of the crop are developed.
The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), which has been developing strands of the crop suitable for growing in the emirates, is expanding its programme to include more farmers.
ICBA said new varieties of the crop could provide yields of 2.2 tonnes per hectare despite high levels of salinity.
Food security has been identified as one of UAE’s key risks because the country is reliant on production from abroad for as much as 87% of its food supply.
While improving food and logistics supply chains is a priority – including the creation of the AED30bn Dubai Wholesale City logistics park – the UAE is also looking to improve domestic production as part of its Industrial Strategy 2030.
Dr Juan Pablo Rodríguez Calle, a post-doctoral fellow at ICBA, said: “We are glad to see the initial results of quinoa farming in the UAE.
“As the country imports most of the food to meet the domestic demand, increasing local production of different crops, including quinoa, will eventually enhance the country’s food self-sufficiency and will help to boost farmers’ incomes.”
ICBA has been working across the UAE to develop crops suitable for different regions. In the emirate of Sharjah, for example, ICBA has worked with the government and other local bodies to develop a strand of quinoa that could grow in the emirate’s high level of salinity.
Globally ICBA has tested 121 strands of quinoa, which it has narrowed down to five best performers. The research body initially worked with 12 pilot farms in the UAE to develop a number of varieties of quinoa and is now expanding the programme to other farmers.
Native to South America, Quinoa was chosen because its large number of species means it can be grown in a variety of invironments, including dry weather and poor soil conditions. The crop is also know for its high nutrient content.
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