Kuwait eyes investment in overseas farmlands

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The Peninsula - 17/07/2008

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) A Kuwaiti cooperative union said yesterday the Gulf Arab state was interested in investing in farmland abroad to help secure food supplies, but would focus on local farms for now and a possible subsidies expansion.

"We are concentrating on Kuwait, but we were hoping to work jointly with other Arab Cooperative Unions," Mohammad al-Ansari, head of the Union of Consumer Cooperative Societies told Reuters.

Ansari said the world's seventh-largest oil exporter, a largely desert nation, was considering increasing subsidies on additional food items and fixing prices of some commodities.

Soaring food prices are a key driver of inflation in the desert the hitting a record 10.14 percent in February, the latest published figure.

Kuwait imports most of its food and wants to invest in chicken and other farms as part of a national food plan.

Sovereign wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), could participate in the project, he said.

Last month, Commerce and Industry Minister Ahmad Baqer said the government could work with fellow Gulf Arab states to invest in food production and farming to secure food supplies.

Land in other Arab countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Yemen were all suitable for agriculture production and setting up chicken farms, Ansari said.

"We hope other institutions will participate to realise this dream which has become reality in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has leased land in African and Asian countries to secure national food supplies despite having plenty of its own land," he told Awan newspaper.

The Saudi government is negotiating on behalf of Saudi investors to set up projects in Sudan, Egypt, Ukraine, Pakistan and Turkey for wheat, barley, soy bean, rice and animal fodder.

The Union runs a network of supermarkets where Kuwait citizens can buy subsidised food under a government scheme, which Ansari said might be expanded to include more products. "There was a suggestion to add chicken and olive oil ... and there was another suggestion to fix the prices of detergents and other (items) without subsidisation," he said.

Original source: The Peninsula
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