GCC plans to fight food crisis
Gulf Daily News | 18th June 2008
By ABDULRAHMAN FAKHRI
A NEW joint strategy for agricultural investment will be launched by the GCC soon, it was announced in Bahrain yesterday.
It will follow similar initiatives by European and other Asian countries to tackle global dwindling food supplies and increasing prices, said Agriculture and Municipalities Minister Mansoor Bin Rajab.
He said the move would ensure that GCC countries would receive agricultural supplies to meet the demands in their local markets.
Countries being considered for investment include Syria and Saudi Arabia.
The minister also announced the setting up of a joint company made up of Arab countries to invest in agricultural projects.
"Priority will be given to basic agricultural products that will be harvested in several areas in the region to be distributed among member countries," said Mr Bin Rajab.
He was speaking at a Press conference attended by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director-general Dr Jacques Diouf, who is on a tour of the region.
Mr Diouf said that even though Bahrain could never be self-sufficient, it has the potential in expanding its production.
He said through agricultural investment in other countries, it would have access to the resources it lacks such manpower, water and land.
An example he cited was its agreement with a major Thai exporter to ensure the supply of rice and stabilisation of prices last month.
"Bahrain could also capitalise on agricultural products it already has such vegetables and dates from palm trees by expanding production," he said.
Dr Diouf, who left last night, was on a two-day visit to Bahrain where he met with the country's leadership and Municipalities and Agriculture officials.
He said the visit follows the FAO Summit held in Rome early this month, where 183 governments took part, including a delegation from Bahrain headed by Mr Bin Rajab.
At the summit, where delegates discussed possible solutions to tackle the recent food crisis, Dr Diouf declared that it would require $30 billion a year to re-launch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food.
He said his visit to Bahrain was to share the outcome of the summit's discussions and listen to the views of government officials as well as the country's leadership.
Dr Diouf announced plans for the setting up of a UN sub-regional office in the UAE, comprising of experts in various relevant fields to promote and implement programmes and schemes carried out by the organisation.
"The Gulf region has the financial resources to buy food, which is a good advantage," he said.
"However, little is produced and it should consider to look into joint ventures to ensure security of food supplies."
Meanwhile, Mr Bin Rajab stressed that Bahrain would not be able to be self sufficient due lack of land and water.
"It has become less financially feasible for investors to use the land for agricultural products compared to other projects due to the increasing costs of land," he said.
"However, the ministry continues to encourage agricultural projects by offering investors various options for projects, expertise and assistance to get equipment and loans."
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