Abu Dhabi looks beyond borders for agricultural land
Abu Dhabi is preparing to launch a large-scale agricultural project in Sudan to develop more than 70,000 acres of land as part of the oil-rich Gulf emirate’s efforts to secure food supplies.Meanwhile, the war in Darfur persists.
The project comes amid growing interest from Middle Eastern states to use land overseas to ensure food security. Saudi Arabia and Egypt have also held talks with Sudan and are considering agricultural projects of their own in Africa’s largest nation, officials from those countries confirmed on Tuesday.
Sudan has vast, but under-developed, agricultural re-sources and has been described as a potential bread basket for the Middle East.
Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said Riyadh – which plans to phase out domestic wheat production by 2016 to preserve its finite water resources – had asked the institution for help with plans to invest in agricultural projects abroad. [Saudi Arabia's wheat initiative has always been, ahem, insane.]
Sudan – keen to attract funding and technology into agriculture – provides land free of charge to investors for such projects, officials said. Although rich in resources, it has been blighted by decades of misrule and conflict, and suffers from a dilapidated infrastructure and inefficient bureaucracy.
Details of the Sudan scheme have not been finalised but the Abu Dhabi fund will seek to produce corn, alfalfa (feed for livestock) and other crops, with wheat a possibility. A feasibility study on the project was due to be finished in four months, Mr Shamsi said: “Food security in Abu Dhabi, that is one of the main reasons.”