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GCC investing heavily in overseas farms

Dubai, March 7, 2012

The governments in the Gulf region are investing heavily in outside farmland acquisitions and leases besides injecting money into the domestic food production industry, according to an expert ahead of a major agriculture expo.

This is part of their two-pronged strategy to secure food supplies to the GCC region and safeguard against market fluctuations, said Richard Pavitt, the exhibition director for AgraME, the region’s largest agri business trade event, to be held in Dubai next month.

Agra ME, which runs from April 2 to 4, will host more than 180 global manufacturers and suppliers of agribusiness equipment and technology from 30 countries looking to showcase their products to importers, buyers and government officials from across the Middle East.

'Leading the way is Saudi, which is currently investing $23.1 billion in food security initiatives such as the allocation of $12.3 billion to the development of the food processing sector and the provision of $6 billion in financial and oil aid to Pakistan in return for agricultural land, said Pavitt, citing a report by research analysts Alpen Capital.

The UAE, he stated, has recently acquired or leased more than 1.4 million hectares of arable land in Sudan, Pakistan, and Morocco, while investing $1.4 billion in the country’s value-added food manufacturing sector, resulting in 150 food processing plants.

As part of plans to be completely self-sufficient by 2023, Qatar has invested $5.1 billion in various food security initiatives, including leasing 400,000 hectares of land in Kenya against a $3.5 billion loan to the Kenyan government, said Pavitt.

It has also established a $1 billion joint venture with Vietnam to provide 90 per cent of funds for investment in various sectors, including agriculture, he added.

Ensuring food security remains one of the most important issues for all GCC countries; according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the six GCC states currently import 90 per cent of all food products.

The high reliance on imports mean the region is particularly vulnerable to price increases when supplies are interrupted, the expert said.

“Disruption in food imports, either due to policy restrictions by exporting countries or natural disasters, affects the GCC region significantly, thereby emphasizing the importance for the governments in the region to achieve food security in order to reduce their dependence on imports,” remarked Pavitt.

In its efforts to attain self-sufficiency in the fish sector and agricultural products, Kuwait allocated $80 million in 2011 to the newly established Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs & Fish Resources (PAAAFR), while investment in land projects in Sudan, Cambodia, and Vietnam is ongoing.

Meanwhile Oman has boosted its fisheries, modern irrigation systems, agricultural production and livestock breeding technologies with up to $361 million of investment in the past two years, while Bahrain has purchased farmland in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Sudan, with 112 of their own food manufacturing plants.

The increased attention on food security and investment in the GCC is also reflected in the growth of Agra Middle East, which has tripled in growth since its first year in 2007.

The exhibition covers the five main sectors of agriculture including Agribusiness, Poultry and Livestock, Fishing and Aquaculture, Flower and Garden, and Agricultural Machinery and Supplies.

Added Pavitt: “Growing at an average of 50 per cent in exhibitor space every year, AgraME has established its presence as the must attend event by the Middle East’s agribusiness industry players.

'This year’s edition promises to be the largest yet as exhibitor interest remains strong from all the sectors covered by the event,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Qatar | UAE | Oman | Saudi | Gulf | Kuwait | GCC | Invest | region | Farms | overseas |

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