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Sun 24 Aug 2008 02:55 PM

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Minister: Gulf food imports likely to increase

Imports of $4bn last year are likely to grow as population growth in the region continues.

The Gulf countries will never be able to produce enough food to become self-sufficient, and will always rely on the importation of foodstuffs to feed their populations, the Minister of Environment and Water said on Sunday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a regional conference in Dubai to discuss commodity development in the Middle East, Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad told Arabian Business the Gulf would always rely on importing most of its food.

“I don’t think there is one (Gulf) country that can sustain itself, either the UAE or the GCC countries. The scarcity of water is a leading factor in this and the harsh conditions (for agriculture), so we are encouraging securing minimum investment in agriculture, but we will continue to rely on the importation of foodstuffs.”

In 2007, the UAE imported $4 billion of commodities and food, required to feed the nation, Fahad told a press conference earlier.

This figure would continue to grow in line with the emirates population growth, he said.

Officials from a range of agencies and government organizations have gathered at the conference to discuss ways to secure food supply and encourage development of agriculture throughout the Middle East.

The two-day conference is expected to issue a strategy on how to achieve this at the conclusion of the meeting.

The UAE currently invests in a range of agricultural and livestock projects in countries with fertile land, particularly Sudan, Egypt, India and Pakistan.

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