Bahrain to develop hi-tech farming system
Manama, February 26, 2014
Bahrain hopes to follow Singapore's example and develop a hi-tech farming system that does not require huge amounts of land or water, according to a government minister.
The aim is to combat land and water scarcity and reduce reliance on imported food, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi said it was also vital to ensure the sector did not suffer as a result of the country's urban growth.
He made the comments yesterday (February 25) as he addressed a forum at the Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa, Seef, designed to help farmers become more resourceful.
"Bahrain has to shift, we have to move to new techniques due to the challenges we have, which are land and water shortages," explained Dr Al Ka'abi.
"The scarcity of land in Bahrain is obvious, which is why we are now changing to the latest techniques in all sectors - particularly in fisheries and agriculture."
The forum, called Food Processing and Small and Medium Enterprises Development in the Primary Sector, was organised by the Mena Centre for Investment.
It was held under the patronage of the minister, who said sessions with international experts in aquaculture and hydroponics had already been arranged for Bahraini farmers.
"As we all know we have a shortage of water, which the hydroponic systems will address," said Dr Al Ka'abi.
"We have begun to build an agricultural incubator in A'ali to teach small farmers and people interested in the field how to use hydroponic systems, showing them how to minimise the use of land and water.
"Hopefully this project will be completed next month and around 55 people have already registered to be part of the project."
The minister warned that with less land earmarked for agriculture and around 70 per cent of farmers in Bahrain using traditional techniques, the country's food security was under threat.
"Urban planning is expanding and with the priority going to housing and development, it is imperative to quickly shift to the new (farming) techniques like Singapore," said Dr Al Ka'abi.
"They have all their agriculture in tall buildings using hydroponics.
"Through their example we can see that it is not necessary to use agricultural land for many crops."
Meanwhile, Mena Centre for Investment board of trustees chairman Dr Zakaria Hejres said farmers would be happy to adopt new techniques since they are more profitable.
"Using new techniques will bring down the unit cost of production," he said.
"That makes this industry more feasible.
"Now, if a product is packaged - which the forum will address - then it will open the local market allowing them to export.
"We are not just telling people to adopt a technique, but to use technology, increase productivity, lower the unit cost and package and market products both inside and outside Bahrain.
"The comparative advantage of Bahrain producing its own vegetables and fruits is the quality of production.
"The quality of the produce you can get from Bahrain, when you compare it to most of the imported produce that takes days to get here, is much higher - so the pricing will reflect that.
"Consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for higher quality produce." - TradeArabia News Service