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19 Bahraini farmers in major drive for food security.

NINETEEN Bahraini farmers are using government-owned agricultural land in Hoorat A'ali as part of an agreement to achieve sustainable food security.

In a written response to Parliament, Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf said farmers were selected to use the government's land through specialised committees, with contracts signed in phases since 2017.

Hoorat A'ali also includes an agricultural incubator centre as well as a Bahraini farmers market and central laboratories.

"The distribution of these lands was done within efforts to contribute to achieving sustainable food security in the kingdom in line with the Government Action Plan to support Bahraini farmers," said the minister in a written response to MPs.

"The farmer has to be Bahraini whose livelihood depends on farming and is experienced in agriculture, especially in growing vegetables.

"He has to be experienced in modern agriculture techniques and technological irrigation methods and the priority of allocating the land goes to underprivileged farmers.

"The rent cost is 300 fils per square metre a year and it increases by 10 per cent whenever the contract is renewed every 10 years."

MP Ahmed Al Demistani also raised a question about providing a space in Hoorat A'ali to produce livestock feed, but was told by Mr Khalaf that the land would be used for produce only.

He also said that the ministry, represented by the Animal Wealth Agency, was sparing no efforts to support livestock owners by subsiding the feed to the benefit of around 175 livestock owners in Bahrain.

"The ministry is also facilitating the process of importing feed by providing the necessary licences and easing their entry into the country," he added.

"Bahrain's agricultural lands are not suitable to grow feed which requires extremely fertile lands and a large supply of water."

Meanwhile, in another response to MPs, Mr Khalaf also discussed the procedures regarding sand dredging for construction and reclamation purposes.

He said that nine local companies were licensed to dredge sand for construction and development works, while three foreign companies were licensed in reclamation works for government and private projects.

"The ministry places a high value on marine sand that is dredged within Bahrain's regional waters because it is natural wealth that must be protected," said the minister.

"Bahrain's constitution states that the government is responsible for protecting this wealth and investing it wisely in what achieves public benefit.

"It is absolutely prohibited to dredge marine sand without the licence from the minister in charge of regulating fishing, exploiting and protecting marine wealth."

According to the 2014 Sand Dredging, Extraction and Sale Law, a company needs to be approved by the Interior Ministry, the Supreme Council for Environment, the Ports and Maritime Affairs Directorate as well as other relevant government authorities.

Mr Khalaf also said that licences for dredging for construction purposes, which are given to local companies, include an annual BD50,000 fee and dredging activities must only be done in predetermined areas by the ministry.

He also revealed that under the licence given to companies who dredge for construction, they are allowed to sell the sand in the local market for construction and development purposes after being appraised by the ministry upon extraction priced at 500 fils per cubic metre.

"The ministry is developing current monitoring tools through increasing the number of sea inspectors as well as implementing other measures to ensure the process is done according to the law," he added.

"Companies are forced to install trackers on their boats and machines used for trawling and dredging to ensure they remain in their predetermined locations by the ministry.

"This is also done to ensure that they don't exceed the allowed amount of sand by monitoring the number of visits to the site as well as the capacity of the machines used."

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Feb 7, 2020
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