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Elite Agro offers UAE consumers locally grown veg

Abu Dhabi’s top producer Elite Agro made it its job this summer to supply vegetables and fruit locally for the first time with a new 20ha greenhouse.

UAE consumers are enjoying locally grown vegetables from Elite Agro, including a range of tomatoes and capsicums.

“Our eggplant and sweet potato continue to impress and we were fortunate to start some trial shipments of blueberries and cherries from Serbia.”

From a brand new 20ha greenhouse and packing facility near Al Ain, supported by the existing ‘home farm’ facility at Al Maha, Elite Agro supplied as many as 34 SKUs to retail, wholesale and HORECA markets.

Success amid big challenge of summer

A lot of effort has gone into developing new lines that satisfy the customer. New this summer was a flow-wrap machine that enabled Elite Agro to present produce in the best possible way, while maintaining freshness and preventing contamination. This opens the door to many new options.

One of Elite Agro’s most successful partnerships through the summer was the continuation of a ‘Farmers Club’ with a key local customer. The promotion of local product through the Farmers Club has meant that the shelves are not just full of imported product – which has normally been the case during the UAE summer.

Consumers have come to appreciate the high quality and slightly lower pricing of the local summer product, while at the same time, receiving the same benefits of safety and traceability as produce from Northern Europe.

Such partnerships open further opportunities for specialty and highly perishable products in the future. For the majority of local producers, summer is a huge challenge but Elite Agro has taken a strategic approach, instead saying summer is its friend and a season in which it will grow and supply locally.

From Morocco and Serbia: blueberries, raspberries & potatoes

Summer production is a little easier in the countries where its subsidiaries are based. While Elite Agro had some trial shipments of blueberries and cherries from Serbia, the main business this year has been potatoes. The potatoes are all covered by a processing contract but exceeded production predictions by over 20%, setting up a fine benchmark for following seasons.

Raspberries are the first crop to come out of Elite Agro’s Moroccan operation. At the time of writing, the feedback was positive. It was a great start to the raspberry growing season. The first variety expected to be harvested is the primocane Maravilla. Fruit set has been excellent and the expected yield is more than 12 tons/ha  for the first harvesting period starting at the end of September.

As for the Floricane harvesting period, expected to start in April-May for the Maravilla, Carmina and Esperanza varieties, the expected yield is about 15 tons/ha of top quality raspberry fruit under good winter weather conditions.

Elite Agro LLC is now certified to GLOBALG.A.P version 5, continuing a four year relationship with the certification of fruit, vegetables, cereals and forage. Its operations in Serbia and Morocco are setting themselves up for audits later this year, which will allow improved access to European customers.

Meanwhile, back in Abu Dhabi, the autumn planting is well underway in the net houses and Elite Agro is looking forward to a highly productive winter.

This article was first published in edition 145 (Sep-Oct 2016) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine on page 32. Read more fresh produce news from that issue at:

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Elite Harvest: nearly 1,500 ha of investments scheduled

The Abu Dhabi agriculture group Elite Agro aims to become a major player in the Moroccan fruit industry.

The Abu Dhabi agriculture group Elite Agro aims to become a major player in the Moroccan fruit industry. “We hope to invest in up to 1,500 ha of fruit and berry products within the next 5 years,” said Elite Harvest CEO Dr Abdulmonem Almarzooqi.

Based in Rabat, the Moroccan division has been contracting about 108 ha near Kenitra and 170 ha of pomegranates are planned in Beni Mellal, 243 ha of apples and pears in Sefrou, near Meknes, and another 91 ha in Ain Allah near Fez.

“We are also running in other opportunities to invest in Africa, like Mauritania,” Almarzooqi said. 

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Modern retailers in the Gulf

Lulu Hypermarkets and Maf Carrefour continue to lead the modern retail panorama in the Gulf countries, followed by Spinneys, Choithrams, Al Maya and Abu Dhabi Coop Spar supermarkets.

Lulu Hypermarkets and Maf Carrefour continue to lead the modern retail panorama in the Gulf countries, followed by Spinneys, Choithrams, Al Maya and Abu Dhabi Coop Spar supermarkets.

Abu Dhabi: a value market of 2 million people

With 16 supermarkets in the Emirate, Abu Dhabi Coop is the main retail chain with about 30% of the modern food distribution in the Emirate, a value market of about 2 million people. Its main competitors are Lulu Supermarkets with 11 shops, followed by Carrefour with 5 hypermarkets. Since last year the chain has renewed the design of its stores, along with a more dynamic commercial strategy of attractive quality and prices. A larger product assortment and quality range of products is also offered. Food security is also guaranteed, since its suppliers are required to be GlobalGAP and ISO certified. The entire supply of fruit and vegetables is organized by the import subsidiary of the Kaf Group to which the chain also belongs. Imported vegetables make up about half of the supplies in winter and almost 100% in summer. After an outstanding advance of nearly 50% last year, sales are also progressing in 2016 despite the lower petrol prices. Among the growing product categories are value-added healthy varieties like blueberries and kale, as well as seedless mandarins and watermelons, tastier cantaloupe melons, coloured capsicums and also speciality leafs like spinach and rocket.

Spinneys’ multiple strategy of sustainable sourcing

The first and only retail member of Global G.A.P. since 2015, Spinneys has been developing a strategy of sustainable sourcing with its fruit and vegetable suppliers. This has been implemented so far through 3 different programmes: “Responsible Sourcing”, “Season’s Best” and “Spinneys Club”. With the “Responsible Sourcing” programme, Spinneys raises its suppliers’ profiles, selected according to their certifications for G.A.P. practices and their degree of social and environmental responsibilities. The “Season’s Best” programme consists of promoting the most seasonal items every month, selected for their optimum eating qualities and attractive prices. One preferred produce supplier is chosen and their profile promoted at the point of sale. Started in January, 2016, the “Season’s Best” campaign has already promoted a South African stone fruit producer called Stems from Cape Town, as well as Stemilt Growers’ American apples from Washington. In April, 2015, the “Spinneys Club” was also created, with a high selection of 3 organic and 4 conventional growers so far. Their products are packed and sold under the “Spinneys Club” label with products of superior selection and specialities. These include renowned Spanish growers of seedless grapes and stone fruit such as Moyca and Royal. “We also aim to improve our logistics performance,” says Martine Aguirre, head of produce sourcing at Spinneys. A global partnership has been established with Hellemans Logistics for customized air and sea logistics. Today, the chain has 57 Spinneys stores in the UAE and 8 premium “Waitrose” joint ventures, as well as 8 stores in Oman. After 3 new store openings in 2015, the chain is slowing down its expansion due to lower petrol prices, which are affecting consumers’ behaviour.

The widest selection & best value with 65 hypermarkets and 65 supermarkets

Carrefour hypermarkets are the industry leaders in product selection and price guarantees in the Gulf countries, while the supermarkets are smaller in scale but still offer a great variety of products that cater to the everyday needs of the surrounding community. Over the last 20 years, this brand has grown from strength to strength in the region, and at Majid Al Futtaim they are committed to growing it even further. As part of the Majid Al Futtaim retail offering, Carrefour currently operates over 65 hypermarkets, over 85 supermarkets, and an online store in 12 countries across the MENA region. It will soon also expand to include 38 countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Russia, where they hold the exclusive rights to the value-packed Carrefour franchise. Founded in France, Carrefour is one of the largest hypermarket chains in the world, and one of the most popular hypermarkets in the region. The brand ensures customer satisfaction and convenience while offering unbeatable value for money with a vast array of more than 100,000 products from home electronics and clothing to fresh fruit from around the world and locally produced items.

Al Bakrawe develops new international markets

Ammar Al Bakri, CEO of Al Bakrawe, confirms the group’s market developments in the Arabic world and Northern Africa. Al Bakrawe Group pioneered the art of importing fresh produce into the UAE and is now one of the leading fresh produce importers and exporters within the Middle East with over 3,000 containers of fresh produce every year, bringing famous brands from all over the world and making sure fresh produce is never out of season. “With a huge fleet of over 200 refrigerated trucks equipped with the latest refrigerating technology and operating 24 h, at Al Bakrawe our promise is to deliver freshness wherever the destination,” says Al Bakri. Al Bakrawe Group sources from a long list of countries around the globe: the USA, Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Spain, France, China, the Philippines, India and Pakistan as well as Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Al Bakrawe Group is a UAE-based company located in the heart of the Dubai Central Fruit and Vegetable Market (Al Aweer, Dubai). It runs 2 of its own cold stores with a capacity for 70 containers. It was established by Ammar Ali Bakri, who started his business earlier in Dubai in 1996 with fresh fruit and vegetable transport, handling, logistics and distribution. Al Bakrawe Group has quickly grown into one of the UAE’s largest and most innovative fresh produce providers. It is constantly awarded by the Dubai municipality for its commercial performance and compliance with food safety standards.

These articles appeared in the Mediterranean & Middle East Special Report on pages 38-40 of issue 142 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that edition online here.


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Festival features Abu Dhabi-grown food

Families from across the Emirates tried the nation’s finest veggies at the first edition of the ‘Mother of the Nation Festival’, which ran until April 2 alongside Abu Dhabi’s scenic Corniche Beach.

Families from across the Emirates tried the nation’s finest veggies at the first edition of the ‘Mother of the Nation Festival’, which ran until April 2 alongside Abu Dhabi’s scenic Corniche Beach.

Dishes made with fresh vegetables grown in Abu Dhabi were among the features of the festival, along with a series of exhibits, performances, and events across five outdoor activity zones.

In a press release, Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre communication manager Ahmed Al Suwaidi said the festival was an excellent opportunity to introduce Abu Dhabi families to the quality and freshness of locally grown products including vegetables, fruits, eggs, honey, and local dates.

The ADFSC’s commercial brand, Local Harvest, introduced visitors to the festival to dishes made with fresh eggplants, tomatoes and more, “further increasing the appetite for information on local produce in the Emirate.”

The Local Harvest sales tent offered families attending the festival an opportunity to inspect the quality and freshness of locally grown produce throughout the festival.

Locals sample sweet potato

Al Suwaidi said the tasting sessions proved popular at the festival and kicked off last Friday with a sampling session for sweet potatoes.

“On top of tasting good, sweet potatoes are well suited to the sandy soils of the UAE, are water efficient, easy to grow and produce high yields. This root vegetable is also nutritious, packed full of energy and vitamin A, is excellent as part of a diabetic diet and rich in antioxidants which have the potential to fight cancers,” he said.

“The sweet potato is also ideal for small hold farmers in the Emirates looking take advantage of opportunities arising from the growing demand for healthy food.”

Alongside the delicious sampling at the festival, the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre also hosted a series of workshops aimed to bring an understanding of farming into the home, on topics such as the benefits of organic farming, hydroponics, and home gardening.

The festival was held to honour HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, with reflection on the hard work of the nation’s mothers and families to preserve “the authentic values and traditions of Emirati culture while embracing a multitude of others.”

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Abu Dhabi: the new vegetable oasis

Founded in 2009, ADFSC has become the driver behind the changes made in Abu Dhabi’s agriculture.

Dhafer Rashed Mohamed Al Qasemi, director of planning and development at the Abu Dhabi Farmer’s Services Center (ADFSC) explains the transformations in Abu Dhabi’s agriculture.

Around 10 years ago, government policies in Abu Dhabi began to change with the aim of farming more sustainably and protecting natural resources. Over the previous 45 years, local agriculture was encouraged by the nation’s founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, who started to encourage UAE Nationals to grow. Land was granted free of charge by the government and farmers were supported in different ways. They received agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers, for example. As for the farms’ infrastructure, levelling, fencing and well-drilling were provided. In addition, the government created the Agricultural Department, which organized subsidies for the farmers.

ADFSC to train farmers and support logistics

Founded in 2009, ADFSC has become the driver behind the changes made in Abu Dhabi’s agriculture. As a result, it has been possible to reduce direct subsidies. Today, ADSFC trains farmers and supports the logistics and marketing for their products. In the past, considerable volumes were produced but with insufficient regard for the quality and without preserving the water resources. In recent years, though, the focus has been on how to produce high quality crops and how to produce the products that are demanded by the market.

“Today, the farmers show interest and approval of the services provided by our organization,” said Al Qasemi. Based on the market research conducted by ADFSC, an agreement has been signed with the farmers that specifies periods of delivery, quality of the product and the minimum guaranteed price. The objective is to provide market access for the right product at the right time in order to minimize the impact that market fluctuations have on farm owners. If a product achieves a higher price than the minimum guaranteed price, then ADFSC receives a 15% commission on the difference. If the market price is below the minimum guaranteed price, then ADFSC will pay the difference to the farmer. “As a result of this policy, quality has been enhanced and currently 82% of the products sold are class 1,” explains Al Qasemi.

Locally grown with a reputation for quality and consistency

Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre also operates its own pack-house facilities and manages every step in the supply chain including harvesting, quality checks, grading, packaging, storing and transportation. “In this way, the farmer can concentrate fully on planting and cultivation.” This new policy from ADFSC has also encouraged a market-driven mentality compared to the past when the government bought everything that was produced. “They have learned the benefit of harvesting and delivering at a specific time,” confirmed Al Qasemi. The reputation of quality and consistency of locally produced crops has been steadily rising in recent years. “Indeed, locally harvested produce has become a brand”. The competitive advantage of vegetables grown in Abu Dhabi is that each local product can be traced to the farm where it was grown. “Thus, food safety is guaranteed.”

Sustainable farming with 110 Global G.A.P. certified farmers

The preservation of natural resources is also an ongoing task for ADFSC. Certification by Global G.A.P. in food safety and sustainable farm practices has already been given to 110 Abu Dhabi farms. ADFSC has also started cooperating with the Swiss institute FIBIL, experts in organic food, to set up organic projects Abu Dhabi. Local production has achieved a market share of between 15 and 20% depending on the crop, the main varieties produced being cucumbers, tomatoes and capsicums. ADFSC sells the products directly to wholesalers and retailers, with about 50% of the volume delivered to Dubai, the UAE’s distribution hub.

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‘Local Harvest’ supply chain on display at SIAL ME 2015

Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC) – through its retail brand Local Harvest - is using the international food industry event SIAL ME 2015 – being held December 7-9 in Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, UAE – as a platform to reassure purchasers and other industry players about the quality and safety of ADFSC’s plant and animal products.

Food safety and quality are important subjects not just in the home, but also for retailers, wholesalers and suppliers alike, says the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC).

The centre – through its retail brand Local Harvest – is using the international food industry event SIAL ME 2015 – being held December 7-9 in Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, UAE – as a platform to reassure purchasers and other industry players about the quality and safety of ADFSC’s plant and animal products.

“This global B2B event is a perfect opportunity for Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre to demonstrate how the agriculture sector has developed over the past five years and how the centre has improved the effectiveness and efficiency of the production chain,” said ADFSC’s communications section manager Ahmed Al Suwaidi.

The event theme ‘Trust throughout the Local Harvest Supply Chain’ promises to give visitors an insight into the modern and innovative agricultural techniques that have been adopted to promote local produce in the emirate.    

Delivery of Local Harvest produce begins with the production planning stage where customer requirements are agreed and new crops introduced. The final approved production plan is distributed to farmers in Abu Dhabi, via the ADFSC’s team, which also provides technical assistance to ensure farmers are correctly using water, fertiliser and other farm inputs.

“Local Harvest sells only the highest quality, safe produce. Our team of technical and quality specialists constantly monitor and advise on all aspects of production, farm practices, selection and packing. These quality assurance measures ensure our produce meets or exceeds the expectations of UAE consumers,” Al Suwaidi said.

Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre produce is available at retail shops in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, through most major hypermarkets and supermarkets. The centre provides technical and operational support services to farmers, helping them grow and market their produce.

ADFSC was established in 2009 to bring strategic agricultural reform to Abu Dhabi, especially by introducing and encouraging the conservation of natural resources. The organization was formed under Law No. (4) 2009, issued by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to work in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Government in order to implement reform in farming practices.

Visit for more information on Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre.

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Barakat Quality Plus adopts shift work to better serve hospitality sector

Part of Barakat Group, BQP produces cut vegetables and fruits, ice cream and fruit juice. It has 95 varieties of juices and 200 different ice creams flavours. It is also retailing soups and salads.

The newest development at UAE-based food and beverage company Barakat Quality Plus (BQP) is that the company has introduced shift work. This move reflects the company’s focus on hotels, which account for 75% of turnover received overnight, according to BQP managing director Michael Wunsch. Among the advantages of the change is that BQP’s fleet, which was previously only in operation for 8 hours, is now better used. Also, the long queues in receival areas and dense traffic in the city during day can be avoided at night, Wunsch said.

Growth in airlines business

BQP’s turnover is directly linked to the hospitality sector and 2015 has not been a year of growth. Summer tourism in the UAE declined about 20%, mainly because Ramadan is now in summer. Also the high value of the US dollar against the euro affected tourism from Europe.

However, BQP’s business with airlines is growing every year by about 5% and it has a new business with its own vending machines, starting with 25 machines, mainly in hospitals and government offices offering juices and salads. All the investment and operations are done by BQP itself.

Part of Barakat Group, BQP produces cut vegetables and fruits, ice cream and fruit juice. It has 95 varieties of juices and 200 different ice creams flavours. It is also retailing soups and salads.

BQP going public

Another key development is that BQP is going public. Forty percent of its capital will be listed in an IPO (initial public offering.) Also, it is investing in a new logistic centre serving both its factories, one objective of which is to facilitate its night deliveries.


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Jebal, the renowned quality from Morocco

This year, Jebal became the number one importer of Moroccan fresh fruit and vegetables into the GCC countries.

This year, Jebal became the number one importer of Moroccan fresh fruit and vegetables into the GCC countries.

“We have enjoyed a 70% jump in Moroccan produce this season, with a huge market awareness of it,” confirmed Driss Dehbi, co-founder and CEO of Jebal. “In the past few years Morocco was considered more as just a gap filler in the market.” But he said that now the country has become a major supplier, in particular for tomatoes and vegetables, with continuous and growing volumes over the full season. Other regions of origin are South America, North America, Europe and Australia.“Quality is more important than price, and the Middle Eastern distributors are giving more and more preference to Moroccan produce nowadays.”

Tomatoes are the main product imported in the UAE. They are appreciated for their good quality and affordable price. “We are supplying 100 to 120 tons per week of tomatoes from Morocco, imported by air.” Citrus fruit is the second top category imported, followed by mixed fruit and vegetables. Jebal supplies the different market segments of the Gulf, from wholesale markets to modern retailers (like Carrefour, Union, and Aswaq), as well as re-export channels and its own specialty stores in Abu Dhabi. 

 Hamad Al Art and Driss Dehbi

Developments in other food divisions

Jebal’s CEO confirmed the firm’s expansion in other areas of the perishable food business, as it boasts its own large cooling facilities. Jebal also distributes red meat, frozen chicken, seafood and processed fruit and vegetables, as well as other grocery items like juices and confectionery. “The food service sector in the UAE is indeed expanding, with food channels becoming more structured,” Dehbi said. He confirmed that the level of quality demanded by the market is gradually improving. Jebal is also investing in Morocco, in packing operations. “Our goal is to have direct relations with the growers and improve the efficiency of the supply chain,” he said. Jebal complies with the HACCP food security standard and is pushing hard for local authorities to establish import standards. “Currently there are no obligatory standards for fresh produce coming onto the market,” Hamad Al Art and Driss Dehbi Dehbi said. He believes produce not complying with such standards should not be allowed to enter the country.


This interview first appeared on page 49 of edition 139 (Sept/Oct 2015) of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read more of that issue online by clicking on the image of it here: