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Thu 8 May 2008 12:09 PM

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Qatar stakes claim on Cambodian farmland

Gulf state to invest $200mn in effort to secure food supplies amid global crunch.

Qatar plans to invest approximately $200 million in Cambodia’s agricultural sector as the Gulf state looks to secure food supplies amid surging world prices.

Hor Namhong, Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, said on Wednesday the two countries were close to signing an agreement, reported Qatari daily Gulf Times.

The announcement was made during a state visit by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Qatar prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Under the proposed deal Qatar would provide funding to restore Cambodia's agricultural infrastructure, including an irrigation system for over 300,000 hectares of rice planting fields in the provinces of Savy Rieng, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham.

In return, Qatar aims to lock in a deal to secure some of the purchasing options on yields from the crops, giving the Gulf state an opportunity to stake a claim on a reliable future food supply.

Food shortages around the world have led to soaring costs for wheat, rice, corn and other grains, driving up prices at the grocery store.

Already under severe inflationary pressure, Qatar has seen price tags at supermarkets increase dramatically in recent months as global demand outstrips supply chains despite government initiatives to fix and control prices.

Inflation in Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, hit 13.7% in the fourth quarter, just off a record. Rents surged almost 28%.

RELATED: Qatar inflation hovers below 14%

Qatar is just the latest Gulf state to look to strike deals with major food producing countries to try and secure reliable food supplies and bring down costs that are contributing to record inflation across the region.

RELATED: Gulf inflation to surge past 9% this year

Saudi Arabia's cabinet on Monday approved plans to increase Saudi investments overseas in fisheries, livestock and food production, while the Emirates Society of Consumer Protection said the UAE was planning to buy farms in Pakistan.

RELATED: Saudi eyes food investments overseas, stockpiles

RELATED: UAE turns to Pakistan to stave off food crisis

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