Qatar furthers the trend of Gulf Arab countries off-shoring their agricultural production to secure food supplies for its citizens and other populations in the Middle East and northern Africa.
Qatar’s Hassad Foods signed a deal last week, worth potentially $1 billion, to develop 20,000 acres of land in northern Sudan, Reuters reports. Cultivation could expand to 250,000 acres.
Hassad foods was established a year ago by the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA) to establish the country’s current and future means of maintaining food security. The food company is hoping to develop six other deals in Latin America and Africa.
“Our aim is to ensure food security in Qatar, primarily, and also the world. In this way Qatar can do its share for the world. We aim to invest in various countries and make it a global venture,” Al Hajri, Chairman of Hassad Foods, told a Qatari paper in August.
Hajri said that Arab and Islamic countries, such as Sudan, have priority in the company’s business partnerships and exportation plans.
Gulf countries, like Qatar, face major fresh water limitations and, as a result, have small domestic agriculture sectors.
In addition to Sudan, the company is discussing a deal with Russian-based grain processing firm PAVA, which has been on a “farmland roadshow” tour of Gulf States this month, according to Reuters.
Globally, foreign investors have contracted 40 to 50 million acres (15 to 20 million hectares) of arable land in developing countries since 2006, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Last Tuesday the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) initiated consultations that will eventually lead to international guidelines for secure land access. Earlier this year, the U.N. expressed concern about rich countries potentially compromising the rights of farmers in developing countries with these land deals.