The UAE tests wheat production in the desert, just as Saudi Arabia is phasing it out.
The project of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority has received 90 percent of the seeds from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico, which is part of the CGIOAR research centers. Together with the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai they want to test which varieties are most suitable for the UAE climate.
The project comes at a time when the Abu Dhabi Water Master plan has warned in 2009 that water consumption of agriculture in the UAE is utterly unsustainable. The government speaks of water being at a “tipping point.”
It is puzzling why the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority which is in charge of designing food security policies for the emirate embarks on such a water guzzling project.
Of course it is being sold as a contribution to food security. It is not. It would threaten water security if practiced on a wide scale. The best that can be hoped for is that it just remains a white elephant pilot project.
The widespread implementation gap of Gulf agro-investments that I discuss in Oil for Food in the eighth chapter continues.
Riyadh-based Hadi Property Investment firm has put an investment on hold that it has considered with a Turkish partner, citing the inability to repatriate profits.
Theoretically a repatriation of 60 percent would be allowed, but as a result of Sudan’s plummeting currency there is a constant shortage of hard foreign exchange and the official exchange rate is not attractive.
Currency weakness is to persist as oil production has been lost with the independence of South Sudan. Both sides engaged in renewed military conflict in 2012 over oil fields and transit fees. The agreement over oil transit fees, that had been reached recently has become brittle again.
Thus, Sudan’s currency remains weak and it is unlikely that the government will receive as many cash infusions from Gulf states as it hopes for.
The project of Hadi eyed the production of wheat, soya, sorghum and animal feed in Sudan’s northern state. The Sudanese state pushes projects in this area with capital intensive center pivot irrigation schemes.
Yet beside the currency issue, there are numerous other problems (see Oil for Food ch. 6), associated with maintenance, infrastructure and water.