Global food shortages have placed the Middle East and North Africa in a quandary, as they are forced to choose between growing more crops to feed an expanding population or preserving their already scant supply of water.
The Dubai-based think-tank Gulf Research Centre, in its food inflation report released last month, noted that agriculture production in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) countries is on the decline, and its exposure to unstable global food supplies would increase in the future. It called on the GCC to develop links with countries rich in arable land.
The UAE and its food-importing neighbours are “particularly vulnerable” to spiralling costs and should make significant investments in “contract farming” in Africa and Asia, says the UN’s Gulf food chief, Dr Kayan Jaff.
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.