Under the title “Why hasn’t the food crisis hit the Gulf countries yet?” CNN published an article about the fact that Russia’s war on Ukraine caused a severe food crisis in some countries of the region, but it did not have a significant impact on the driest and least food-producing countries in the region, such as the Arab Gulf states.

The article explained that the Arab Gulf countries, where less than 2% of their lands are used in agriculture and which import 85% of their food needs, had prepared well to face the current global food crisis following the lessons of the global financial crisis in 2008, reports a local Arabic daily.

That crisis led to the rise in food prices, which in turn prompted some producing countries to impose a ban on their food exports in order to protect their stocks.

The article quoted the “Intelligence” unit in the magazine “The Economist” as saying that this shock had a significant impact on food and agricultural policy in the region.

The article pointed out that the Global Food Security Index places Qatar in the 24th place globally among the countries that enjoy food security, followed by Kuwait, the UAE, Oman and Bahrain, while Saudi Arabia is ranked 44th.

After the Corona pandemic exacerbated concerns about food security, the Gulf countries turned — says Karen Young, a fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington — towards finding other alternatives, especially with the availability of funds for them.

The article shows that among these alternatives are seawater desalination facilities with low energy consumption, agriculture with economic water consumption, and the use of modern water-based farming methods.

There is also the controversial method of buying agricultural lands in Third World countries by the Gulf countries and exploiting them to produce their own crops.

Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of countries that bought agricultural land in countries such as Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, after it decided to reduce its wheat production by about 12.5 percent annually in 2008 in order to save the scarce water resources in the country.

The article indicates that some of these options are costly and their sustainability is doubtful, especially in the context of a global food crisis. Stephen Hertog, associate professor at the London School of Economics, is quoted as skeptical about the ability of agricultural land-purchasing countries to prevent their governments from imposing rationing or bans on food exports in case the global food crisis worsens.

And if Russia’s war in Ukraine produced the current food crisis, on the other hand, it placed the oil-exporting countries in a solid financial position that could not only improve their budget conditions, but also overcome the worst consequences of that crisis.

The article quotes Karen Young ad saying that food purchases constitute a percentage of consumer spending for most of the peoples of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which is lower than that of other countries in the region.

But the most important bet for the Arab Gulf states in enhancing their food security is laying the foundations for self-sufficiency to mitigate the impact of food crises in the future.

One of the prominent examples of this is the UAE, which established a special ministry for food security and launched in 2018 a national strategy aimed at placing the UAE among the top ten countries on the global food security index by 2051.

Among the foundations of this strategy is the cultivation of salt-resistant crops in the desert and the establishment of vertical roofed farms and Smart plastic houses in the desert.

For its part, Qatar sought to implement a similar strategy to achieve self-sufficiency in dairy products by establishing dairy industries in the desert for this purpose.

These industries depend, of course, on financial support from the state, which is possible for reasons, most notably the financial abundance resulting from the rise in energy prices.

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