By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter and Sarah Dabbar, Special to Gulf News
Abu Dhabi Authority starts awareness campaign among farmers to improve animal health
Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has intensified efforts to improve the share of locally produced milk and meat in the market as part of its strategy to ensure food security and price stability, a senior official told Gulf News on Sunday.
“At the moment the share of locally produced milk and meat is negligible,” Mohammad Jalal Al Rayssi, director of communication and community services at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), said.
Statistics on the share of locally produced and imported meat in the emirate were not readily available. However, it is estimated that the UAE imports 90 per cent of the food consumed in the country.
The authority, which is responsible for agriculture and animal welfare, as well as food safety in the emirate, has started an awareness campaign among livestock owners to improve their animals’ health.
“When the quality of animals in local farms improves, they will attract more demand from the market, which will, in turn, encourage farmers to breed more animals,” Al Rayssi said.
Many farm owners breed animals as a hobby. “We want them to take it as a serious business and contribute to the market,” the official said.
The authority has found that the majority of customers, especially Emiratis, prefer locally produced meat to imported meat, he said.
“But availability is the problem. Moreover, meat is an essential part of food in the region.”
Concerted efforts by the authority have succeeded in convincing farm owners to ensure their livestock have regular vaccinations.
“The rate of vaccination has improved considerably. But we are not complacent; that issue is also in our campaign.”
The campaign warns against various bad practices followed by farm owners. Keeping many animals in a small enclosure is a common wrongdoing that affects their health. Failing to isolate sick animals from healthy ones is another issue. The campaign, especially through Arabic media (because most farm owners follow Arabic media), raises awareness about all these issues, the official said.
The authority is giving guidelines to classify animals based on their age and gender, and gives hygiene requirements for each category, he said.
The guidelines also advises them to buy animal feed from government-licensed establishments to ensure that fodder is not contaminated.
The current awareness programme is part of a series of measures taken by the authority to improve the quality of locally produced milk and meat.
Its Animal Identification Registration System (AIRS), a Dh40 million project to register all animals in the emirate, is progressing. An estimated 2.72 million animals in the emirate constitute 80 per cent of the animal population in the UAE.
The system, developed from the popular “Stable to the Table” food safety norm, involves tagging each animal. This will help control animal diseases and improve animal health.
“It will help achieve food security as the healthier animals in the domestic market can minimise dependence on imported animals,” the authority said earlier.
An ear tag is attached to the right ear of sheep and goats, but in camels a microchip is inserted under the skin of the left side of the neck.
It is free of charge for the animal’s owner and it does not affect the animal’s health, productivity or performance.
The ADFCA team registers the name of the owner, their identity number and the animal’s serial number on a mobile electronic device and send it to ADFCA headquarters for processing.
— Sarah Dabbar is an intern with Gulf News.