To break the runaway inflation that is fuelled by high food costs, Gulf rulers have a new strategy: they are buying unused agricultural land in poor countries like Pakistan, Thailand and Sudan, and becoming large-scale farmers.
Farmers and activists have opposed a plan for a business consortium from Saudi Arabia to invest in rice farming in Thailand. The scheme is said to be the creation of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Farmers fear they could lose their livelihood and rice farming could be held hostage by foreign investors.
Saudi government moves agriculture abroad by investing in farming of staple commodities in Thailand, Brazil, India and other countries. This move represents a classic case of “absolute advantage” economy.
This week, Saudi Arabia announced plans to invest in overseas fisheries, livestock and food production, and is reportedly trying to partner with Thai rice farms to lock in future supplies. Libya is in talks with Ukraine about growing wheat there, and as China tries to feed its expanding middle class, it’s looking to buy up farmland in Africa and South America.
MAP Services Group announced the setup of a Middle East Food Fund in partnership with various Gulf partners to act as a food production basket serving the region. The fund will invest in the agriculture sector in Pakistan, Egypt and Georgia for food and food-related products to be produced for the Gulf region.
The worldwide shortage of food grains coupled with high food prices is driving leading food companies and investors from the UAE to Pakistan in search of lucrative deals in the agriculture sector in of one of the world’s major food exporters.