UAE moves to certify organic food

Dubai: Organic food in the UAE is being certified under new regulations, a senior official said.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Bin Al Wan, assistant undersecretary of external audit at the Ministry of Environment and Water, said organic farms in the UAE and imported organic foods are being certified by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) for the first time.

Sultan said the move follows fresh regulation initiated by the ministry earlier this year. He added that 17 farms in the UAE have already been certified and others are under process.

“Organic products will be issued a certification logo so consumers can know it’s really organic. Officials are checking the market now, taking random samples and checking the products,” Sultan said.

He made the comments yesterday on the sidelines of a press conference announcing details of the Middle East Natural and Organic Product Expo which starts on November 27-29 in Dubai.

Industry sources estimate the UAE organic market is valued at $100 million-$150 million (Dh367.2 million-Dh550.80 million) per year. Demand for organic food is rising among health-conscious consumers, Sultan said.

He added that a new dedicated venue for organic produce is expected to open next month near the Hamriya market in Deira “in arrangements with Dubai Municipality”.

Speaking during the event, Redha Hassan Salman, director of Dubai Municipality’s public health and safety department, said the regulation will boost the UAE organic industry.

“Organic products will not flourish without regulation and enforcement, the trust of the consumer will not be there without that. We’re looking at all aspects, from ingredients to labelling,” Salman said.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed during the event that the UAE could become the regional base for the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

“The UAE is the most important candidate for this office; a decision is expected next week. It’s an important office that is responsible for dissemination of information and education about organic products and it’s really pushing this movement,” said Dr Sa’ad A. Kh. Eisa, adviser-Ministry of Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Ashiq Ariejeel, CEO of Organic, said organic food “isn’t going to be pricy any more. Instead of paying a price with your health, consumers pay for healthier choices. More competition and greater volumes will bring prices down”.

Ariejeel said there are about 40 organic food farms in the UAE — about half of them have already been certified.

“You’ve to be clear — there are natural products and organic products. People get confused: ‘Natural’ doesn’t have to be certified, anyone can claim that. But organic does, and customers should look for the certified logo or label.”