While Saudi Arabia sets up its first sovereign wealth fund, ordinary Saudis are more preoccupied with the rising price of food. This is prompting the Saudi government to consider a new direction for foreign investment: buying farms in the poorer parts of the world.
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.
Indonesia's Minister of Agriculture and other senior government officials Tuesday said they met with senior members of Saudi Arabia's Binladin Group to discuss the investment group's plans to spend at least $4 billion developing at least 500,000 hectares of Indonesian land for rice production.
Sudan is seeking to attract at least $1bn of capital for its agricultural sector from Arab and Asian investment groups, which are turning to Africa in search of new food supplies as their governments try to manage the impact of commodity price inflation.
Even as it receives a billion pounds of free food from international donors, Sudan is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries, capitalizing on high global food prices at a time when millions of people in its war-riddled region of Darfur barely have enough to eat.
Saudi Arabia, which is making efforts to provide food security for its nationals, can look up to Ethiopia where huge tracts of unutilized agricultural land are available for growing cereals, according to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Ahmed Al Sadhan, General Manager of the National Office for Industrial
Strategies, at the Ministry of Commerce, stressed a desire to maintain a low profile on the feasibility study, for fear that target countries might
inflate the cost of farm-land in anticipation of investment.