Friday, May 28, 2010

Persian Gulf states face food crisis

Seed Daily via UPI: The scramble by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states to secure strategic food supplies by buying up vast tracts of farmland in Africa and Asia won't be enough to stave off a surge of food imports over the next decade, a Saudi bank report says. "The era of cheap food is over," NCB Capital, the investment arm of Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank, declared in the report issued several weeks ago.

The wholesale investment in arable land in Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and other African states won't prevent the level of food imports of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- from rising sharply over the next decade. The NCBC report urged the GCC states to boost domestic food production through sustainable agriculture to head off an eventual crisis caused by a dramatic surge in the global demand for food that will push prices ever upward.

It said that the Saudis at least are providing financial incentives to expand the use of new crop technologies, water management and new types of seeds that require less water. Riyadh's 2010 budget allocates $12.3 billion to the agriculture and water sectors, a 31 percent increase over 2009. New desalination plants are also planned. Even so, NCBC noted, "food inflation … represents a potentially considerable social-economic risk which the authorities are poorly equipped to deal with."…

Rub' al Khali, or the Empty Quarter, is the largest sand desert on earth. Shot by Nepenthes, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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