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Rice Amidst the Desert : UAE

4 min read
The pandemic is a wonder in this era where some are struggling while others are seeking opportunities at the same time to grow as an economy or outstand as a nation.
UAE Grows Rice in Desert

The pandemic is a wonder in this era where some are struggling while others are seeking opportunities at the same time to grow as an economy or outstand as a nation.

In the same go, UAE is trying out ways to grow food in arid regions as the country imports 90% of its food to feed countrywide, which turned out hard in this pandemic as most of the rice exporting countries had to restrict export to fulfill their countries need in this pandemic. So, with the idea of growing food in the arid region, rice being one of the major food crops in this region, was taken for consideration and experimentation. Let’s see further how it all started.

Biggest Rice Importers
Biggest Rice Import Graph

Motivation Behind The Action

The Changing Sustainability Project under the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) in partnership with RDA (Rural Development) of the Republic of South Korea is the major motivation behind growing rice (or food) in the desert or more specifically arid regions. This project was started at the ministry’s research center in Al Dhaid in the emirates of Sharjah with a motive of exploring the latest technology and techniques to become self-sufficient in meeting food supplies throughout the country. as UAE is among the top 10 rice importers. 

Types of Rice Chosen

Since rice is a crop that needs specific conditions and an ample amount of water to grow, so choosing particular types of rice crops was a major issue. The two types of rice were taken for this experimentation: Asemi(Japonica) and FL478(Indica) because of their capability to stand in poor soil conditions, salinity, and heat, which is rather common in desert regions. 

Pilot Phase of the Project

In November 2019, seeds were sowed and harvested in three stages in May 2020, with a growing cycle of 180 days(6 months) where water supply was monitored via underground drip irrigation to reduce cost and wastage at the same time. 

The three stages divided the plot into three blocks which were monitored and the first harvest was carried out on 5th May followed by second and third on 10th May and 30th May respectively. With the success of the pilot phase, UAE harvested 1700 kilograms of rice which is a small fraction of 90% of its food. this harvest will only be used commercially only after proper testing against compliance to check if it meets standard specifications to use rice crops.

In an interview, Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of climate change and environment said, “This pandemic has sent a strong message that diversification always has to be a key element of our future plans.” And at the same time, the government of the country sees more opportunities to stabilize the overseas supply network as UAE owns farms in 60 other countries around the world.

Gulf News Video Report on UAE grows its own rice in desert

Future Aspects

With the success of rice harvesting, there comes hope for agricultural innovations in the UAE and even in other arid regions. This is just the beginning of becoming self-sufficient, the UAE seeks other great projects like smart greenhouse projects, vertical farms that grow crops under controlled conditions, and control over the date palm pests to reduce import dependencies. 

South Korea will continue working with the UAE to discover water-saving endeavors to maximize crop production. As the Ambassador of the Republic to Korea to the UAE, Kwon Yongwoo exclaimed, “The Korean Government and Embassy are delighted that the cooperation of the two countries in the agricultural area has seen the first tangible success, especially during this difficult situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Korea has a long experience and cutting-edge technologies in the field of agriculture and food security, which we are ready to share with the UAE.”

UAE also initiated one amazing donation campaign check out the link below to that news article in detail:

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