Fresh twist for UAE diners as oysters thrive in warm waters

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A fresh oyster dish prepared by chef Georgiy Danilov is displayed at Copper Lobster restaurant, in Fairmont, Fujairah, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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Frame grab from video, lantern nets holding oysters inside hang underwater at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Fay Abuelgasim)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm points to the underwater oyster farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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A mosque’s minaret and the Shumayliyah Mountains are seen from Dibba Bay on the Arabian Sea, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off these shores in Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm cleans a lantern net at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates.The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm cleans the lantern nets at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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A package of oysters from the Dibba BayOyster Farm is displayed, in Dibba, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, pulls a lantern net with oysters from the water, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee cleans oyster shells at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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Employees clean oyster shells at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili).
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Frame grab from video, a diver from the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, fixes a lantern net at the underwater oyster farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Fay Abuelgasim)
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Ramie Murray, Scottish owner and founder of Dibba Bay Oyster Farm tests a fresh oyster at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Fresh twist for UAE diners as oysters thrive in warm waters

FUJAIRAH, UAE: The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters, providing a valuable mainstay to Arab tribes that subsisted off its trade before the discovery of oil pumped new life into the Arabian Peninsula. Now, off the shores of the United Arab Emirates, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind.
Long thought of as a cold water delicacy, edible oysters are being farmed in the warm waters of Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman. The local delicacy has made its way to tables in 12 different restaurants in Dubai, a cosmopolitan emirate east of Fujairah that is home to some of the Middle East’s top-rated restaurants serving international tourists and residents.
Dibba Bay Oysters in Fujairah, established two years ago, produces up to 20,000 oysters a month. They grow inside multi-tiered, netted baskets submerged in the open water. At any given time, there are about 1 million oysters at various stages of growth. An oyster can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months to grow to full market size.
“With these local oysters, we take them out of the water in the morning, and then in the afternoon they’re with the hotels, they’re with the chefs, they’re in the restaurant,” said Dibba Bay founder Ramie Murray.
The UAE imports nearly all of its food due to its harsh desert climate, but being able to deliver fresh oysters within hours to restaurants has made the local delicacy an attractive menu item at some of Dubai’s most popular and prestigious seafood restaurants, including the oyster bar at Dubai’s Opera.
“Someone came to me and said: ‘Hey, have you heard of these local oysters?’ And I was like: ‘No,’” said the bar’s executive chef Carl Maunder. “It was sort of out of the blue because, you know, this was in the summer time, it was very, very hot and just the last thing I expected anybody to be producing or farming here in Dubai.”
Murray plans to ramp up production to about 150,000 oysters a day in the coming years and expand to other markets in the region. The Dibba Bay farm claims to be the first of its kind in the Middle East.
Due to the warmer water temperatures, Murray says his Pacific Cupped oysters grow faster than they might in cooler climates.
The Pacific Cupped oysters, he said, “grow very well in the summer and their growth tails off in the winter, whereas here they just grow continuously because we have the warm weather the whole year round.”
Just down the coast from the Fujairah farm is the Copper Lobster restaurant. There, chefs serve the locally grown oysters with a Japanese Ponzu sauce.
“Being in the industry for 15 years, I had a kind of stereotype as (might) any other chef that oysters can only be imported from Europe,” chef Georgiy Danilov said. “In the middle of the year, I just got the business card of Ramie. ... I called him, and I was like: ‘Are you real?’“


Waste not, want not: Import-reliant NENA region seeks solutions to consumption and storage issues

Updated 3 min 28 sec ago
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Waste not, want not: Import-reliant NENA region seeks solutions to consumption and storage issues

  • Food security institutions around the world mark World Food Day today, to honor the founding date of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • KSA's consultative Shoura Council is looking into a food waste law that could see individuals and organizations fined for excessive waste

DUBAI: With food loss and waste in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) estimated at up to 250kg per person and more than $60 billion annually, a number of initiatives are aiming to tackle the issue across the region, which relies heavily on global food imports, has limited potential to increase production and faces a scarcity of water and arable land.

They’re not alone, as food security institutions around the world mark World Food Day on Tuesday, to honor the founding date of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. 

“If, on a global level, we could recover one third of food wasted, it could feed 870 million people,” said Colin Kampschoer, communications officer at the UN’s World Food Program. “In 2017, one in nine people didn’t have enough to eat — this equals 821 million people. Globally, a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year. For example, at the moment we waste almost half of the fruit and vegetables we produce in the world, while we waste 24 million slices of bread each day.”

Saudi Arabia ranks first in the world in food waste per capita. According to the FAO, reducing food loss and waste is vital for sustainable food systems and regional food security. “The high percentage of imported food into the region, combined with the Middle East being a major contributor to food waste, means that it places a heavy burden on the earth’s resources, including water, energy and fossil fuels, that are required to produce and distribute food,” said Ryan Ingram, founder of TerraLoop, a food loss and waste consulting company in the UAE. 

“Greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste are 25 times more harmful to the environment and accelerate climate change. If food waste were a country, it would rank as the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the US.”

The region loses and wastes up to 20 percent of cereals, 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 16 percent of meat and 27 percent of fish and seafood. 

The FAO estimates that food waste at the consumption stage in the region is 34 percent, and is found mostly in urban areas. Significant wastage is also said to take place during religious holidays, wedding ceremonies and family gatherings, and in the hospitality industry such as in restaurants and hotels. “Major weaknesses for the region include a significant lack of arable land, water scarcity, a hot climate, insufficient investment in agricultural research and high dependence on global and regional markets,” Ingram said. “This is in addition to population growth and increasing local food consumption each year, which also place increased pressure on already-strained food and water resources.”

Food consumption in the GCC has grown from 48.1 million metric tons in 2016, with estimates that it will reach 59.2 million metric tons in the GCC by 2021. And with a compound annual growth rate of 4.2 percent and 800 million undernourished people in the world, much work needs to be done. 

“The Middle East, like most prosperous societies, has access to plentiful food supplies,” said Jeffrey Culpepper, chairman of Agrisecura in the UAE, which provides sustainable solutions for food security purposes. “That excess promotes waste, especially in high-end hotels and restaurants. Many times, portions are valued in quantity, not quality, so too much is put on your plate.” 

He said hot climates add to difficulties in storing surpluses. “Mandatory management of food waste by governments is required,” he added. “As opposed to dumping in landfills, it can be digested into bio-fuel or composted. By having smaller portions on the plate, savings can be used to offset storage cost of waste for collection.”

Landfills are also quickly reaching capacity. “By recycling food waste, it will take pressure off landfills and create useful byproducts like bio-fuel and compost,” Culpepper said. “Also, in a world where food shortages and hunger are a major problem in many countries, wasting food has become a moral issue.”

Others called for implementing a law to combat food waste, such as enforcing a fee on restaurant-goers who leave unfinished plates. “Monitoring large food-waste producers, like catering companies, hotels, markets, malls and airlines, is vital,” Ingram said. “There is also a need for national and regional guidance and awareness campaigns in all sectors, including residential, commercial and government, as well as pre-Ramadan.”

He suggested measuring waste at the source and creating a feedback loop to the supply chain so that procurement is reduced. “What gets measured, gets managed,” Ingram added. “Developing community projects that tackle food waste at the source and educating the producers and public about the issue and how to be a part of the solution, can also help. Developing policies that help overcome future food security challenges requires further research, and development and future strategies need to be aligned with research and development to ensure resilience and sustainability.”

Many initiatives are starting to emerge across the region to tackle the issue. The UAE Food Bank collects food from hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and farms to distribute to people in need, such as laborers.

Terra Loop sees itself as the Middle East and Indian Ocean’s first food waste auditing consultancy, helping people to understand their food waste, from five-star hotels and resorts to shopping malls and restaurants. Its objective is to guide them to solutions that reduce their “FoodPrint,” taking responsibility and improving their bottom line.

In Saudi Arabia, the Eta’am Food Bank, launched in 2010, helps to feed the underprivileged by distributing excess food from hotels, banquets and weddings to the poor and needy. “Other corporates in the Eastern Province now also participate in the scheme,” Ingram added. “Eta’am also promotes food-related culture and provides hands-on experience in the safe preparation of food through the Food Academy Initiative.” 

Moreover, the Kingdom’s consultative Shoura Council is looking into a food waste law that could see individuals and organizations fined for excessive waste. It also proposed the establishment of a national center to offer guidance and awareness on food waste. 

“There is a growing awareness in local communities on the problem of excess food waste with several local initiatives having been started to recycle residential food waste,” Culpepper said. “These efforts are important but still too small to make a significant difference. The big generators of food waste are hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals and government institutions, as opposed to residential, so it will require a government policy to force commercial food-waste producers to recycle.”