UAE: Non-certified organic food to be seized

Dubai: Food products made or sold in the UAE that claim to be organic without federal certification will be seized, officials said on Sunday.

Local produce claiming to be organic must be certified by the federal Emirates Authority for Standards and Metrology (Esma).

At the retail level, the certified produce must carry the Esma organic sticker, said Yousuf Al Marzouqi, Head of International Conformity Affairs Section, Esma.

Imports, meanwhile, must meet Ministry of Environment and Water rules. Only imports on a ministry-approved list of foreign organic certification bodies will be allowed into the UAE, said Abdullah Al Mansouri, Head of Plant Health Section at the ministry..

Broadly speaking, those bodies are mainly pan-European and pan-American certification groups that verify that the product is organic in the country of origin, he added.

“If the local product is not Esma-certified, it will be destroyed. If the import is not with the [ministry’s] approval, it will be stopped at port. The local authorities in each emirate, such as the municipality, will enforce these rules,” Al Mansouri said.

imagesTheir comments came on the sidelines of a press conference to announce the 13th edition of the Middle East Exhibition for Organic and Natural Products (MENOPE), taking place from November 2-4 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Around 60 UAE farms have been certified by Esma as organic and more are expected to apply for certification.

“It’s a full assessment — the soil, pest control, record keeping, decisions of management, marketing, labelling, etc. It’s not just about the product itself,” Al Marzouqi said.

The local produce is governed by the Esma-issued UAE Standard Codex 32 and Ministerial Resolution No 82 of 2012. The origin of organic regulation in the UAE stem from Federal Law No 5 of 2009, the officials explained. Being federal, the rules apply to all producers, sellers and importers across the UAE.

In April, for instance, UAE hypermarket chain Lulu announced it will only sell Esma-certified local organic produce under a new agreement with the ministry.

Meanwhile, the total number of hectares used for organic farming in the UAE has grown from just 200 in 2007 to 4,286 in 2014.

As the local organic food supply continues to grow, the prices will increasingly become more comparable to regular non-organic food, said Nadim Al Fuqaha, managing director, Global Links Dubai, which is organising MENOPE 2015.

“It used to be the case that organic prices were 300 or 400 per cent higher. Now the difference is around 100 per cent or less,” Al Fuqaha said.

Debuting this year at MENOPE is the First Emirates International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Sustainable Products.

In a statement, Fatima Al Kalbani, director, Agricultural Development Department at the ministry, said the ministry has “taken proactive steps in promoting organic and natural products in the local market through the development of a package of technology services and legal infrastructure”.