Emirates Business 24/7 | Tuesday, November 25, 2008
By VM Sathish
Gulf investors are planning to develop aquaculture projects in the region and Asian and African countries.
The scheme has been launched at a time when food security is becoming a major concern in the GCC.
Saudi-based National Prawn Company (NPC), the world's largest integrated shrimp producer, is planning an initial investment of $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) to start large-scale fish production in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
The aim is to farm king fish, cobia, barramundi, mahi and milk fish using aquaculture installations on waste coastal desert land.
"We are looking at fish farming in various GCC countries," said General Manager Peter Fraser. "There is lot of opportunities to develop waste desert land in coastal areas in the region. We are also looking at viable projects in African countries which have deserts adjoining coastal regions."
NPC has already identified suitable coastal land and development will begin once issues regarding land ownership are resolved. The company produces 15,000 tonnes of shrimp per year at a facility developed on 50 square kilometre of coastal waste land 200km south of Riyadh. A second phase of the project – which will bring the cost up to $1bn – will cover a further 50 sq km.
"This is a unique project utilising waste land. About 3,000 employees work at the desert shrimp farm and within the next two years 5,000 people will be working in the expanded project. By 2011 our production capacity will go up to 50,000 tonnes of shrimps per year.
"Saudi Arabia is known as an oil exporting country – but shrimp is the second-largest Saudi export to Japan after oil. We currently export to 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia."
NPC is owned jointly by the Saudi business groups Al Rahji, Al Balla and Al Subaiei. They also own Al Watania, the Middle East's largest poultry producer, which supplies a million eggs and 500,000 chickens per day.