GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The Gulf Food Security and its Latin American Horizons
Paper Proposal Text :
Since the beginning of the 21st century, a sharp increase was marked in food prices and food costs all over the world, for a variety of reasons: the accelerated pace of population growth, climate changes and nature disasters. In the Arabian Gulf states the effect of the increase in food costs is even stronger, not only due to the population growth but also due to the fact that the Gulf States’ desert climate leaves these countries with only a small territory fit for agricultural development and in any case, the amount of water required for irrigation is large and in some cases exhausts the water supply available in these countries.

The food supply problem in the Gulf States is so severe that leaders, decision makers and public opinion makers refer very often to the term “Food Security”. According to various definitions, having Food Security means that people have at all time an access to good and nutritious food in sufficient quantities and according to their needs. By witnessing the high volume of the media coverage given to the Food Security issue in the Gulf States it is obvious that this issue is perceived by their leaders as very important and crucial problem.

The Gulf States tackle the Food Security challenge in a very thorough and systematic approach, which exceeds beyond the importation of food and even beyond the establishment of huge stocks of elementary food products like wheat, barley, corn, sugar, rice and meat. These states, especially Saudi Arabia, treat this issue on a multidimensional level and consider it as a political issue and not merely as an economic problem. These countries strive to upgrade relations with dozens of countries all over the world, which have large territories of fertile agricultural lands. Then, the Gulf States put efforts in leasing or purchasing such fertile lands, in order to use them for growing the y agricultural products which may serve their Food Security needs, like wheat, sugar and rice. In order to promote such an initiative, the Gulf States’ governments encourage the establishment of public as well as private companies whose task is to purchase or lease fertile agricultural lands abroad and export vast the majority of the crops back to the Gulf. Usually these companies are headed by very prominent businessman and executives.

Concerning the Gulf Food Security strategy, one of the most interesting regions in the world is Latin America. Countries like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay already exist on the Gulf State’s Food Security map. Political, professional and technical delegations are being sent from the Gulf States to these countries in order to explore Food Security possibilities, and to promote purchasing and leasing deals which may secure current and future use of vast fertile lands.
In the coming years, wheat and sugar production in Latin America is expected to grow significantly, a fact which may put in the Gulf States’ focus not only countries which have relatively minor internal problems, like Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, but also countries which were considered, at least until recently, as very problematic, like Colombia, due to the presence and activity of violent insurgency groups. In recent years, things have changed dramatically in Colombia and this country, thanks to its increasing government control and security conditions may become very attractive for the Gulf States’ agricultural investments initiatives.

Since Food Security is considered as a strategic issue, the growing interest of the Gulf States in Latin America may bring also strategic developments to both sides. The Gulf States, for example, may find themselves reconsidering their global strategic concepts and concluding that leasing and purchasing lands in Colombia may be no less important than purchasing F-15 jet fighters from the US. In parallel, Latin American countries may very well prefer receiving Saudi or Kuwaiti huge agricultural investments rather than staying under the financial influence of the US or even China.

If Latin America is to become a region of interest for the Gulf States in the near future, due to Food Security reasons, we cannot rule out the possibility that Gulf conflicts may emerge in Latin America and even exacerbate Latin American conflicts. For example, if Colombia becomes attractive for Saudi Arabia’s food security needs, the Saudi-Iranian tensions may be drugged to this country’s already tensed relations with its neighbor, Venezuela, which is considered an ally of Iran.

In any case, it is pretty obvious that the needs of the Gulf Food Security and the fact that at least part of the solution exists in Latin America will bring a change in relations between the Gulf States and the Latin American continent at all levels and may reflect another major change in the world’s changing balance of powers.