Faced with a quickly growing population and an absolute dearth of fresh water, Saudi Arabia has given up on the concept of ‘food self-sufficiency’, that is, adequate food supplies grown within the Kingdom to meets its needs. Instead, it is looking to establish agricultural entities in foreign countries with adequate water supplies. This has been met by some as a form of ‘neo-colonialism’, anticipating that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and other, generally poorly developed countries could only be exploitative.
Now, Arab News reports, Australia is inviting the Saudis to invest in agriculture in that country. Already a major exporter of meats to Saudi Arabia, Australia sees benefit to both countries in having Saudis set up farming establishments within it. That doesn’t meet any definition of ‘colonialism’ of which I’m aware.
Saudi food from Saudi farms … in Australia?
Michael Cousins | ARAB NEWS
JEDDAH: Australian lamb and beef are well known to Saudi shoppers. Both are a regular feature in Saudi supermarkets.
Likewise, Saudis became well aware of Australia and camels thanks to stories in the Saudi media earlier this year about the Australian government wanting to cull its wild camel population and impassioned calls by some Saudi readers for them to be given a home in the Kingdom.
But if former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke has his way, Saudis will get to know a great deal more about produce from Down Under — on their dinner plates!
Hawke wants Saudi Arabia to produce its food in Australia. He issued his appeal in Jeddah on Sunday at a meeting of the Australia Gulf Business Council and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).
Despite agriculture being part of the old stereotype of the Australian economy, there were, he said, “enormous” opportunities for food cooperation between the two countries. The combination of Saudi capital with Australian land and experience could answer the Kingdom’s quest for food security.