More UAE residents prefer locally-grown fruits and vegetables

When Covid-19 struck, it brought one factor into sharp focus: immunity. It was found that people with weak immunity suffered severely from the virus. The message was clear, said Kenneth D'Costa, MD at Barakat, a leading supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables in the UAE. Consumers began valuing fresh produce sourced locally, and which would help them in the fight against the pandemic.

'Consumers today are increasingly being cautious about ingredients, reading labels, and opting for the best of healthy and fresh food, he said. As restrictions took effect, demand for fresh local produce, especially organic, began to soar. Concepts such as vertical farming, hydroponics, farm-to-table, sustainable agriculture & trade, and subscriptions to home delivery services for fresh fruit and vegetable garnered increasing interest among consumers.

As a result, entities such as Barakat, NRTC Group and Fresh Fruits Company, among others, say demand for fresh local produce has grown beyond all projections.

Barakat, which has tied up with around 50 local farms, says it can deliver fresh leafy vegetables to consumers within four hours. 'Local greens are the highest selling items on the Barakat app, D'Costa said. 'Within our ultra-fresh juices segment, there's been a marked shift towards healthy juice blends like Green Juice, Rejuvenate, as well as Healthy Juice Shots, which are made from super-ingredients like kale, spinach, and celery. We've seen a 4x jump in online business.

NRTC Group, another supplier of produce from local and international farms, says consumers now pay attention to where their food is coming from. CEO Mohammad Nassar says interest in locally produced food has made it necessary for fruit and vegetable delivery platforms to seek out the local farms. 'Additionally, we learned from the pandemic that one cannot rely completely on imported goods. There is now a need to have enough local sourcing to sustain and satisfy the local demand, said Nassar. 'The fresh fruits and vegetable market which was already growing pre-pandemic saw a drastic increase last April and has continued to grow over the past year above and beyond any projections.

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