Essentially, the Middle East is left with two choices. “The region has to import. The question is, invest abroad or rely on the free market?” said Dr Eckart Woertz, program manager in economics at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
Growing crops for strangers, of course, is nothing new. The long, grim march of colonialism was driven by Europe’s penchant for sugar, tea, tobacco and other crops that don’t flourish in northern climes. But as climate change and growing populations put ever more pressure on the earth, state-backed searches for land and food contracts as part of a national food-security strategy strike many as fundamentally new.
Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.
The Saudi Arabia-based Binladin Group is expected to wrap up a feasibility study by the end of this year on investment in a massive food business program that will be located primarily in the eastern part of Indonesia, a senior official says.
The company will conduct a feasibility study of the proposed land area, in the Merauke district of Indonesia’s Papua province, before making their final decision. “We have been looking at other locations that might be suitable but Indonesia is first on our list,” a spokesperson said.