UAE farmers bogged down in paperwork discuss solutions

Members of the farming community gathered in Abu Dhabi today to discuss ways to reduce the amount of paperwork farmers have to do, so they can focus more on their vital work.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority says its aim is to institute standards that farmers can follow. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // Members of the farming community gathered at a conference in the capital on Wednesday to discuss ways to reduce farmers’ paperwork so that they could better focus on their work.

“Make farming simple again,” said Guy Callebaut, a Belgian farmer and chairman of Global GAP, a certification body whose standards the Abu Dhabi Initiative adheres to.

Established in the capital in 2014, the Abu Dhabi Initiative seeks to tackle food security issues in the UAE and around the world by helping farmers with their paperwork.

“We want to send less time in the office and more on the tractor,” said Mr Callebaut, who was speaking at the third Global Forum of Innovations in Agriculture in Abu Dhabi.

“I sometimes spend half a day with an auditor from one organisation checking for certain standards on my farm, only to spend the other half with another auditor checking the same standards. They have the same checklist.”

In recent years, a resurgence of requirements for farming certifications, which comprise several audits a week, have weighed on farmers. Some claimed that they spent more time adhering to standards and proving their credibility to auditors than producing food.

Dr Rashed Al Shariqi, head of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, said its priority was to institute food standards that farmers could easily access and adhere to.

Although farms were required to conform to government standards, farmers could better focus on their work by cooperating with the Abu Dhabi Initiative, said Dr Al Shariqi.

Ensuring the sustainability of farming was of paramount importance in the region, said Dr Al Shariqi.

“We need to meet sustainable development goals such that farming leads to feeding growing populations, while easing the burden on farmers and the environment,” he said.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae