Among Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, Qatar is leading its Gulf neighbours in the Global Food Security Index 2021, according to a report by Oxford Business Group (OBG).
Qatar was listed in the 24th spot (out of 113) in the global ranking and garnered an overall score of 73.6 (out of 100). Kuwait followed with a global ranking of 30 and an overall score of 72.2.
According to the Covid-19 Response Report, produced by OBG, in partnership with the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development, the Global Food Security Index 2021 listed other GCC countries as follows: UAE (35th global ranking, 71 overall score), Oman (40th, 70), Saudi Arabia (43rd, 68.5), and Bahrain (44th, 68.1).
Titled ‘Agri-tech & Food Security in the GCC’, the report shines a spotlight on the wide-ranging strategies for agricultural innovation and food production taking shape across the region in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format that includes key data and infographics, OBG said in an earlier statement.
The report highlights the investment opportunities emerging in agri-tech across the Gulf as GCC countries move collaboratively and individually to find sustainable solutions for their food security challenges, it also stated.
“When looking to emerging markets, GCC countries are considered among the most food-secure in the Global Food Security Index 2021, compiled by Economist Impact. However, the region lacks direct control over the majority of its food supply and remains dependent on imports,” the report pointed out.
GCC members imported about 85% of their food prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, almost all rice consumed in the region was imported, as well as around 93% of cereals, 62% of meat, and 56% of vegetables, according to consultancy strategy&.
The report also stated that GCC countries have adopted several strategies in recent years to increase domestic agricultural production and hedge against disruptions to imports. A common component of these strategies has been water management, with all GCC members developing their capacity for desalination.
In 2018, the report said the UAE inaugurated the world’s largest reserve of desalinated water to bolster domestic water resources. The man-made aquifer buried under the Liwa Desert holds about 26bn litres of water and can supply residents with around 100mn litres of water per day.
Elsewhere, treated wastewater is used to irrigate certain crops. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia reuse about 50% of their wastewater, and Bahrain and Qatar reuse 10% to 15%, according to RAND Corporation.
When it comes to boosting agricultural output in the harsh climatic conditions of the Gulf, alternative crop varieties are being adopted. For example, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai conduct advanced research to develop drought- and saline-tolerant crop varieties.
Direct support for farmers is another common feature of food security plans, said the report. In 2019, Saudi Arabia initiated a programme to help small farmers switch to organic farming as part of a goal to bolster organic output by 300% by 2030. The Saudi authorities also inaugurated the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Programme in 2019 to boost the production, processing, and marketing of fruit, fish, livestock and Arabic coffee, as well as the systematic cultivation of rain-fed crops.
Other GCC members have similar programmes. In Qatar, the State Food Security Projects 2019-23 plan aims to make the country 70% self-sufficient in eggs and greenhouse-produced vegetables, 95% self-sufficient in fresh fish, and 100% self-sufficient in fresh dairy products, poultry, and shrimp by 2023, according to the report.