UAE says upcoming import ban will not affect produce availability

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The UAE’s decision to ban certain produce exceeding minimum residue levels of pesticides from May 15 will not lead to food shortages in the country.

The Ministry of Environment’s assistant undersecretary for regions added that the decision was based on safeguarding the long-term health of consumers by preventing the ingestion of excess chemicals.

The move affects all peppers from Egypt; cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, eggplant and beans from Jordan; all apples from Lebanon; and carrots, melons and watercress from Oman.

This ban will not have any significant impact on the markets, both in terms of quantity or variety and the public need not be worried,” said Sultan bin Alwan Al Habsi, adding that sufficient sources of the affected fruit and vegetables will still be available on the market.

He also predicted that local produce can meet domestic demand in various categories, including UAE production of zucchini, which exceeds 18,500 tonnes, a similar quantity of eggplants and 4,000 tonnes of bell peppers.

These products are safe and do not pose a direct threat to consumers’ health. The pesticide residues will not have effect unless the products containing residues are continuously kept for long time,” Al Habsi said. 

The ministry had decided to ban some vegetables and fruits from selected countries as a “proactive step and precautionary measure… without affecting the availability and prices of banned products.”

Countries affected by the ban include nearby Egypt, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, though unacceptable pesticide levels were last reported in May 2016, from India.

Since then the ministry has not revealed the degree to which some fruits and vegetables have exceeded acceptable levels of pesticides.

The maximum permitted levels of pesticide residues in foods are stipulated by regulatory bodies in the UAE. Exposure of the general population to such residues most commonly occurs through the consumption of treated food sources,” the ministry added in a statement. 

Neighbouring Oman has hit out at the ban by issuing a statement to say that nearly all of its produce conformed to internationally permissible limits, following recent tests.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said: “Specialists have analysed more than 1,600 samples from commercial farms, and have issued pesticide residue analysis certificates in the specialised laboratories. These analyses proved that 98% of the samples conform to the internationally permissible limits.”

Meanwhile, Qatar has ramped up its produce testing since the UAE announcement, according to local media.

The Peninsula reported that the Ministry of Public Health issued a circular to all the country’s ports to ask them to only release consignments from Lebanon, Oman, Egypt and Jordan after pesticide analysis.

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