Wikileaks: Kuwaiti food security: Less than meets the eye...
Viewing cable 09KUWAIT1170, KUWAITI FOOD SECURITY: LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE...
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PP RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR
DE RUEHKU #1170/01 3491055
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151055Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4313
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 001170
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP, EEB/TPP/ABT/ATP
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EINV ETRD EAID KU
SUBJECT: KUWAITI FOOD SECURITY: LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE...
¶1. (SBU) Key Points
-- Despite high profile press reports, the GoK has not
invested in buying farm land in developing countries.
-- The Kuwait Fund and the Arab fund have both provided loans
and grants to support agricultural sectors in developing
-- There is some interest in agricultural investments, but
concerns about host country corruption and the difficulties
of actually obtaining food in a crisis are strong
disincentives, making investment in increasing local storage
capacity here a higher priority for food security.
No Recent GoK Investments in Asian or African Land
¶2. (SBU) Kuwaiti officials all contradicted press reports
(including in the Economist) that the GoK had invested in
Asian farm land as a way to ensure food security. Ahmad
Bastaki, the Executive Director for the office of Kuwait
Investment Authority's (KIA) Managing Director flatly stated
that the "only KIA investment" to come out of high-level GoK
trips on this issue was "the time" of KIA's Managing
Director. Salah Al-Kulaib, the Chairman and Managing
Director of Kuwait's (government owned) Kuwait Flour Mills
and Bakeries Company and in charge of Kuwait's food security
program, was equally dismissive saying that the GoK had made
no such investments. On the private sector side, Ahmad
Al-Hamad, the Managing Director of the Kuwait-China
Investment Company thought there might be some investment
opportunities, but told Econcouns that his company had
"pitched it" to KIA, but found no takers.
¶3. (SBU) Al-Kulaib explained his concerns about buying
developing country arable land as a food security measure.
The first problem, he noted, was the lack of adequate
infrastructure in a host country, which would complicate his
efforts to bring the goods to market. The second problem was
one of corruption. Officials in these countries, he said,
would all be happy to sell land as long as it was the right
land and the right person got paid off. As an additional
disincentive, the land in East Asia was also not appropriate
for the type of rice Kuwaitis would eat: Basmati rice.
Finally, of course, Kuwait would have no way of actually
obtaining the food in genuine global crisis. If the host
country government didn't shut off exports in a food crisis,
he suggested, it could be overthrown. "We don't have an army
to get it," even if we wanted to, he noted wryly. He had,
therefore, recommended against buying arable land and instead
investing in building storage capacity sufficient for
one-year of scarcity. This appeared to be the route that
most of the GCC countries were taking. For his part, he was
investing in dramatically expanding Kuwait Flour Mills' silos
for purely commercial purposes. The GoK had not yet made a
decision on his suggested "strategic grain reserve."
¶4. (SBU) Al-Kulaib said that he would be interested in
investing in arable land, but only in countries that were
already large agricultural goods exporters with a solid rule
of law. He expressed some interest in investing in the
United States, Australia, and possibly Brazil, and asked
whether Econcouns could give him any advice on U.S.
agricultural investments. With regard to Kuwait's one
high-profile investment in agriculture, Sudan's Kenyana Sugar
Company (30.5% KIA owned), he said we haven't gotten our
money out of that for 30-years, though he acknowledged that
it had been very profitable over the past year.
Aid Programs for Agriculture
¶5. (U) Kuwait-Based aid agencies provide assistance to food
security and agricultural programs. The Arab Fund for
Economic and Social Development provides loans to support the
agricultural sector. According to the Arab Fund, its most
recent loan of 12 million KD (USD 42 million) was to Yemen
for agricultural and fisheries development in the Hadramut
coastal Area. The Kuwait Fund has also provided
agricultural loans since its establishment. According to the
Kuwait Fund, it has provided over USD 2.3 billion to finance
around 118 agricultural projects over the past 47 years. The
largest percentage of these loans has gone to Arab countries
followed by Asia. The Kuwait Fund has also provided loans to
infrastructure projects that would directly or indirectly
support agriculture and rural development.
Private sector investments
KUWAIT 00001170 002 OF 002
¶6. (U) While the GoK appears to find the food security
argument insufficiently compelling to justify investments as
a matter of policy in developing nation arable land, private
Kuwaitis are large overseas property owners and developers,
particularly in countries like Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
While these are focused more on commercial or residential
real estate, private Kuwaitis will invest wherever returns
are expected to be high and could conceivably invest in
agriculture. These investments would be motivated out of
profit rather than food security concerns.
For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
visit Kuwait's Classified Website at:
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