Bulletin 24 - November 1984: Plant Nursery Business in Dubai and the Northern Emirates

Plant Nursery Business in Dubai and the Northern Emirates

by M.I.R. Khan

1. Introduction

The business of importing, raising and selling plants on a sizeable scale started in Dubai and the northern Emirates almost a decade later than in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi*. Starting in the seventies the plant nursery business made a good deal of progress both in the private and public sectors of these Emirates. So far, a lot more plants have been imported from abroad than raised locally in these Emirates.

The use of indoor decorative exotic plants in hotels, homes, commercial buildings, offices and business premises has increased considerably in recent years. Almost all indoor decorative plants are imported, mostly from Holland and some from Belgium. Depending upon the type, variety and size, the price of an indoor plant may vary from Dh 10 to Dh 2500.

A large number of outdoor plants including ornamental shrubs, shade trees and fruit plants are also imported from Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Date root suckers come from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. A fair number of outdoor plants are now also being raised locally in both private and public sector nurseries.

To make an assessment and record the current situation with regard to the plant nursery business in the Emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujeirah, the author undertook a tour of these Emirates during December 1982, and held discussions with the operators of private nurseries as well as officials dealing with the public sector. A number of persons working in the Emirates Agriculture Departments and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Resources concerned with the raising and management of plant nurseries were contacted. The author is grateful to all of them for their kind help and cooperation in providing valuable information.

The result of the survey of plant nurseries is given Emirate-wise in the following pages followed by an account of the plant nurseries belonging to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Resources. Finally, some important aspects of plant nurseries in these Emirates are discussed briefly.

2. Plant Nurseries of Dubai

The Dubai Municipality has a Landscaping section and an Agriculture section dealing with the planning and design of soft landscaping and the raising and maintenance of plantations respectively. The Landscaping Section is concerned only with the planning and designing of landscaping projects and their execution is carried out mostly through contractors. The Agriculture section takes over the completed projects and maintains them. It may also conduct some small landscaping projects itself.

There is only one medium-sized nursery over about two acres belonging to the Agriculture section (near the Dubai central Jail). It produces about 300,000 ornamental and shade plants annually. Plants are raised in shallow sunken beds or containers and are used for small new projects and the maintenance of completed landscaping and plantation projects.

In Dubai there are a number of private nurseries for outdoor plants, and flower shops for indoor plants. Some of these also sell grass tufts (rhizomes) and vegetable seedlings. There are five nurseries located opposite the new Hamirya fruit and vegetable market alongside the Gulf Coast. They sell mostly newly-imported outdoor plants from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. One nursery belongs to Miss. Dina Home (Flowers) of Dubai who also own an outdoor plant nursery at Rawayeha along the Dubai-Al-Ain road. It stocks and sells about 150,000 ornamental and fruit plants annually. Two nurseries are run by Pakistani operators who import most of their plants from Pakistan by dhow. Besides ornamental plants these nurseries contain Mango, Citrus, Guava, Chicko, Sharifa and Date. The remaining two nurseries are owned by Jordanian nationals and deal in both ornamental and fruit plants brought by road from Jordan and Lebanon. The price range is between Dh 5 and Dh 50. Date root suckers are more expensive and may cost up to Dh 200 each.

There are five outdoor nurseries in the Rashidiya district of Dubai. They may also stock some indoor plants:

  1. Dubai Nurseries, owned by Mr. Laiq Khan Hamdan, containing about 40,000 plants mostly imported from India and Pakistan.
  2. City of Flowers Nursery, owned by Mr. E. Aminian. It contained about 20,000 ornamental plants.
  3. Fakhir Nursery, owned by Mr. Mohd. Fakhir, who also owns one of the Gulf side nurseries. It contained about 50,000 ornamental and fruit plants imported from Pakistan.
  4. National Agriculture Equipment and Chemicals Co. Nursery, connected with one of the Gulf side Jordanian nurseries. It contained about 20,000 plants.
  5. Khalifa Nursery is solely owned by a national who imports plants from Pakistan at intervals. It contained a few plants at present and did not appear to be properly looked after.

In Deira, Satwa and Jumeira, the following nursery shops dealing in outdoor and indoor plants were visited.

  1. Green House, owned by Mr. Askar Mandodi, a national of Indian descent. This deals in both outdoor plants (from Pakistan) and indoor plants (from Holland).
  2. Oleander Flower Shop, owned by Mr. Iqbal Abedin, a national who is a shrewd man with a well organised business in indoor and outdoor plants imported from Belgium and Holland. The price of a single plant may range from Dh 10 to Dh 2000.
  3. The Landscape Centre is a comprehensive and well kept n;rsery shop dealing in outdoor and indoor plants and vegetable seedlings. It is managed by a professional couple.
  4. Zaheer Flower Shop is an indoor plant nursery shop belonging to a Pakistani national. It imports mostly from Holland.
  5. Blossom Flower Shop deals in imported indoor plants and locally raised outdoor plants. It is owned by Mr. Abbas Hilmi, an Egyptian national.
  6. Planter's Warehouse is a nursery shop dealing exclusively in imported indoor plants. They also sell their stock to local plant retailers. It is a well run indoor plant warehouse in the middle of Deira.
  7. Khalidiya Nurseries Co., Abu Dhabi aIso have a small outdoor plant nursery ln Deira. It contained about 10,000 plants when I visited.
  8. Greenfields Middle East Flower Shop is situated in Galadari Galleria and sells imported indoor decorative plants besides cut flowers.

3. Plant Nurseries of Sharjah

The Sharjah municipality has an Agriculture section in charge of parks, avenues and roadside plantations etc. in Sharjah. It owns a nursery in Al Hizam area of Sharjah and a new nursery recently set up in Falah along the Sharjah-Dhaid road about 3 kilometers from Sharjah International Airport towards Dhaid. Both these nurseries are at present producing about 100,000 outdoor ornamental plants for landscaping and beautifying Sharjah. The municipality is putting up another nursery close to the slaughter house near the covered new souk to raise seedlings of annual ornamental plants.

The Sharjah municipality has recently stepped up their drive for greening the city. Besides increasing the area of city parks and lawns etc., it is intended to raise a green belt all around the city which will serve as a live shelterbelt and protect it from sand storms and hot winds.

There are a number of private plant nurseries and flower shops dealing in both outdoor and indoor plants in Sharjah. A brief account of these nurseries is given in the following paragraphs.

  1. Pak-Arab Nurseries deals both in indoor plants and outdoor plants brought from Holland and Pakistan respectively. The outdoor plants sell at Dh 5 to Dh 50 per plant and the indoor plants at Dh 10 to Dh 1500. Annual sales amount to about 50,000 plants.
  2. Tac Nursery is a small nursery in Al Hizam area owned by an Egyptian national. It contained about 3000 outdoor plants.
  3. Bhatti Sons Nursery is also a small private nursery situated in Falah along the Sharjah-Dhaid road adjoining the Sharjah municipality nursery. Most of their plants are imported from Pakistan. It contained about 4000 plants.
  4. Falah Nursery is an outdoor plant nursery in Falah owned by a national, Mr. Ali Nasser Al Owais. It contained about 5000 plants with prices ranging from Dh 10 to Dh 30 per plant.
  5. Al Nahda Nursery is a small outdoor plant nursery also in Falah, situated close to Falah nursery and owned by Mr. Hamad Salim, a national. It contained a few hundred plants only.
  6. Orni Gardens is an indoor plant shop also stocking some outdoor plants. The indoor plants are sold at Dh 10 to Dh 2000 per plant.
  7. Malik Flower Shop deals in imported indoor and outdoor plants. The brother of the owner of this shop owns the Satwa Flower shop in Satwa, Dubai.
  8. Gromor Flower Shop is situated on the Sharjah-Ajman road and deals in indoor plants. It is owned by Mr. Sikandar Ali, a Pakistani national.
  9. Oleander Flower Shop with branches also located in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. They deal mostly in indoor plants with just a few outdoor plants.
  10. Sharjah Flower Shop deals in imported indoor plants mostly.
  11. Flowers Park is situated on Wahida street and deals in indoor plants only.
  12. Reem Company for Water and Agriculture Services also deals In the sale of indoor plants in Sharjah.
  13. Spinney's Super Market also stocks imported indoor plants for sale to customers.

In Dhaid the author visited the following three private fruit plant nurseries:

  1. Sheikha Fathima Fruit Nursery, located along the DhaId-MasafI metalled road. It sells imported plants of Lemon, Orange, Guava, Fig and Vine etc. These plants are imported mostly from Jordan and Lebanon and are sold for Dh 15 to Dh 50 per plant.
  2. Khalfan Khamis Fruit Nursery is also situated on the Dnaid-Masafi asphalted road. It contained a large number of vines and some plants of citrus varieties as well.
  3. Abu Salama Fig Nursery has been raised at the farm of Mr. Abu Salama, situated in the Dhaid region along the track going from the asphalted road to the Central Nurseries of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. Besides fig plants, it also contained some vines.

4. Plant Nurseries of Ajman

Ajman municipality has a small Agriculture Section with a recently established outdoor plant nursery. A variety of ornamental and shade plants are raised for planting in Ajman parks, avenues and roadsides. A total of 100,000 plants of poinciana, Conocarpus, Mulberry, Oleander, Washingtonia, Jasminum, Rose, Clerodandron, Henna, Hibiscus, Jatropha etc. are raised. Small plants are first raised in a shaded nursery and when mature moved to an open nursery.

In the private sector, the Agriculture Development Establishment also owns a nursery adjoining the Ajman municipality nursery. This deals in outdoor ornamental and shade plants and fruit plants such as Mango, Date, Lemon, Orange, Guava, Sharifa, Fig and Vine, brought from Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries. They sell about 100,000 plants annually. The root suckers of one Omani date variety were being sold for Dh 250 per sucker.

5. Plant Nurseries of Umm Al Qawain

There is a small outdoor nursery in the Umm Al Quwain Park belonging to the municipality. It raises about 20,000 plants annually. A new plant nursery is now being set up by the Agriculture Section of the municipality at Sirra on the Umm Al Qawain-Falaj Al Mualla road about 12 km from the junction of the Umm Al Quwain-Ras Al Khaimah roads at Abraq.

The new nursery is being set up on a piece of land measuring 15m x 200m (1 1/2 hectares). The nursery site has been fenced and a tube well yielding good quality water has been sunk. Sowing and planting in the nursery has also been started. The nursery should produce enough ornamental and shade plants for outdoor planting in the Umm Al Quwain landscaping projects and for their maintenance. There is no private nursery in Umm Al Quwain so far.

6. Plant Nurseries of Ras Al Khaimah

The Agriculture Section of the Ras Al Khaimah municipality owns a small nursery at Kharran on the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport road to meet the existing plant requirements of the municipality. They raise mostly outdoor shade and ornamental plants such as Conocarpus, Casuarina, Washingtonia, Oleander, Hibiscus etc. for planting along avenues, roads and in town parks.

AI Ain Corporation manages a forest tree nursery in Hamraniya. Their nursery contained about 150,000 well grown plants of 'Ghaf' (Prosopis spicigera) '. sold at Dh 2.5 -- Dh 3 per plant. Greenfields Middle East also has a private nursery for outdoor plants at the Galadari Farm near Khatt springs in Ras Al Khaimah.

7. Plant Nurseries of Fujeirah

The Fujeirah municipality owns a small Agriculture Section headed by an Agricultural Engineer, with a small nursery behind the municipality building. It contained about 3000 outdoor ornamental plants of Washingtonia, Oleander, Hibiscus, Leaucana, Citrus, Mango etc. The Fujeirah municipality employs a total of about 60 persons in the Agriculture section and have recently started planting shade trees and ornamental plants in the Fujeirah township.

Oasis Nurseries of Pakistan have started setting up a plant nursery in Fujeirah of the same name. They propose to deal in both indoor and outdoor plants. Mr. Mushtaq, the manager, was in Pakistan to fetch outdoor plants including fruit plants, during my visit. The nursery had stocked some indoor ornamental plants for the time being.

8. Plant Nurseries of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Resources already has some existing plant nurseries in Dubai and the Northern Emirates and there are plans to set up some more. The plant nurseries of the Ministry visited by the author were at Dhaid (Sharjah), Khatt, Hamraniya (Ras Al Khaimah) , Fujeirah and at Al Aweer (Dubai). They are small to medium-sized nurseries containing outdoor plants for shelterbelt, shade and ornamental planting. They also stock young fruit plants of Mango, Lemon, Lime, Citrus, Fig, Guava, Vine etc. The nursery at Dhaid contained about 200,000 plants, at Khatt about 50,000 plants, at Fujeirah about 50,000 plants and at Al Aweer about 20,000 plants.

According to the plans of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, new nurseries are to be set up at Dhaid, Hamraniya, Fujeirah, Al Aweer and Masfut. There will be a Production Nursery over 3 hectares with shade netting and concrete-sided beds at Dhaid and a Demonstration Nursery on one hectare at Dhaid for the sale of plants to farmers. This Demonstration Nursery will have an overhead wooden grill and concrete-sided beds and will be situated along the Dhaid-Masafi asphalted road. Two similar one-hectare nurseries are also being set up at Hamraniya and Fujeirah. It is further planned to set up 1/4 hectare nurseries at Al Aweer and Masfut.

The Ministry of Agriculture nurseries would raise and provide outdoor plants to the public for shade, shelterbelts, and beautification. They will also produce fruit plants and vegetable seedlings of suitably-tested varieties for sale to farmers. The new nurseries are being established at present and are expected to be completed by the end of 1983.

9. Some Aspects of the Nursery Business

(i) Date Palm Root Suckers

Date palm root suckers, especially of the desired varieties, are in great demand throughout the Emirates. Besides the locally produced suckers, they are brought in from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

The demand for date root suckers will increase in coming years. It would be worthwhile to undertake a survey of the likely sources of the suckers in various countries and then organise trade in these on a stable and firm basis.

(ii) Indoor Ornamental Plants

Almost all exotic indoor plants are imported at present. Some of these could easily be produced locally under controlled environmental conditions. This has already been done by the Agriculture Section of Abu Dhabi municipality.

As the indoor plants are transported by air from Europe to UAE, they are quite expensive and the cost of locally-produced indoor plants could be reduced considerably. The price of the indoor plants produced by the Abu Dhabi municipality ranges between Dh 5 and Dh 50 only per plant.

(iii) Fruit Plant Nurseries.

There would appear to be good scope for fruit plant nurseries especially in the Northern Emirates. A large number of fruit varieties are being tried by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Hamraniya, Dhaid, Fujeirah and Dibba. The successful varieties of various fruits will be the ones which would require to be multiplied. The multiplication of the successful varieties would be taken up by the Ministry of Agr iculture but the same work cou'ld also be undertaken by private nurseries. The demand for fruit trees is likely to rise in the future.

(iv) Public Sector Nurseries versus Private Nurseries

Both the public and private sector nurseries will be needed in the future. The public sector nurseries, especially under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, are well organised. Overhead expenses may be higher but they produce plants of good quality. They can set an example for the quality of produce that may also be produced by private nurseries.

The private nurseries on the other hand are comparatively more economical and their costs of production are generally less than the public sector nurseries. Furthermore there is ample and rising demand for plants to provide enough work for both sector nurseries. Healthy competition between the two sets of nurseries should result in the production of better quality and cheaper plants.

(v) Regulation of Plant Nurseries.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has proposed the promulgation of a Nursery Law for the regulation of nursery businesses in the UAE. The law probably envisages the enforcement of adequate plant quarantine measures to check the introduction of any new pests and diseases into the UAE. These measures would apply to both incoming and outgoing plant materials.

The nurseries may also be asked to produce plants of only suitable and successful varieties especially in the case of fruit trees. They may be asked to employ properly qualified and experienced staff and produce certified, healthy and good quality strains and varieties of seeds and plants for sale to the public. Thus the promulgation of the proposed Nursery Law should have a salutary effect on the nursery business in the whole of the UAE.

* See Bulletin 20
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