Sunday, December 13, 2009


Qatar imports more than 90% of its food requirements from other countries as it has constraints in terms of cultivable land and supply of water for agricultural production. Rice, wheat and sugar are the major food items that are procured from out side. Therefore their outward looking philosophy to establish some modicum of food security for its people cannot be faulted. Their recent land lease arrangements in Sudan (40000 ha) and Philippines (40000 ha) have attracted some criticism.

"Opponents say it impinges on local farmers' rights and undermines the host country's food security. Jacques Diouf, the director general of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), warned of an emerging neo-colonial approach. The World Bank and FAO are expected to publish a code of conduct for buying overseas farmland this month, as guidelines are vague. But Mr al Hajri said Hassad Food's projects would invest in domestic agribusinesses rather than making closed-door deals with governments. Locals will share in the profits and produce, he said. The firm has also formed partnerships with eight Qatari charities, including humanitarian, medical and livelihood groups, to improve the lives of the workers on their farms. Mr al Hajri said Hassad planned to announce grain and livestock deals in Turkey and Australia soon".

One difference that marks Qatar's deal distinct from others is its determination to share the profits with the host country and also ensuring that a part of the production is made available for the domestic market at reasonable price. Their commitment to the welfare of the farm workers employed by them through involvement of charitable organizations in their operations is another novel approach of social significance. Gulf countries are expecting doubling of the present $ 24 billion import of foods to $ 49 billion by the year 2020, if the present import trend continues, forcing them to look for alternative options like land leasing in foreign countries for food security.

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