Rice in the desert

Gulf Business|July 2020

Rice in the desert
The Covid-19 pandemic, while ringing in other changes, is also spurring the UAE to grow more of its food

The United Arab Emirates doesn’t spring to mind as an obvious place to farm rice, but the coronavirus is prodding the arid nation to explore new ways of feeding itself. In a pilot project with South Korea’s Rural Development Administration, the UAE in May this year harvested around 1,700 kilograms of rice in the emirate of Sharjah.

The partners planted Asemi rice, a popular variety in East Asia, because it can withstand heat and salty soils. An underground irrigation system that drips water instead of spraying it was crucial to the project’s success.

“This pandemic has sent a strong message that diversification always has to be a key element of our future plans,” Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE’s minister of climate change and environment, said in an interview. The virus “is pushing us to come up with more innovative ways to grow faster than the rest of the world.”

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July 2020