Gulf economist says no follow up on GCC land grabs

Arabian Business | 28 June 2010

Dr Eckart Woertz speaks at the Learning from Legends forum in Dubai on June 28 (Photo: ITP Images)

by Damian Reilly

Leading Gulf economist Dr Eckart Woertz on Monday said plans by GCC states to buy farmland in Asian and African countries were not materialising despite announcements to the contrary.

Speaking to delegates at the Arabian Business Learning from Legends conference, Woertz said: “Investment in land was the flavour of the month in 2008. Companies made these pompous announcements, but fast forward two years and they only have a hole in the ground. They are far away from building actual farm developments and overcoming political disagreements.”

He said several Gulf companies charged with buying land in countries such as Pakistan and Sudan for the purpose of exporting food grown there back to GCC countries often had not employed anyone with experiencing of actually growing food.

“It is not happening on the ground. Look, you go to these company’s offices and they have not actually got an agri-engineer there,” he said. He added agreements to export food from countries where food was scarce could be difficult to enforce in the future.

“I don’t think that is possible,” he said, when asked about the possibility of ring-fencing farms in Africa, adding agreements with Gulf countries whereby energy is swapped for food might be a better solution.

“Sharing agreements are possible, but these need to be pushed forward,” he said.
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