About thirty years ago, the Saudis decided that they needed to become self sufficient in the production of wheat. Of course, anyone who’s tried to grow cereal grains knows – you need water and nutrients, two things that are natively lacking in the desert. The Saudis eventually abandoned this idea, but the question still remains, where are they going to grow the food that their population requires to survive?
Answer: from any nation willing to sell or lease vast tracts of its farmland and-here’s the kicker-allow the Saudis to export most or all of the food grown there back home, bypassing the international market. Such “offshore farms” are a quiet, though burgeoning, form of neo-colonialism. And they have the potential to unleash a new food crisis.
You can hardly blame them for wanting to provide some level of security for their population, however, as oil reserves diminish and food security becomes more of a global issue, rather than just one of those states that produce little of their own food, will we see food wars?
The author of the above article, Eric Reguly asks the question, quite astutely:
Would it be in Canada’s interest to turn big chunks of Saskatchewan or Manitoba into offshore farms for the UAE or China? In a country that believes in free trade, probably not. Farmers, food processors and politicians need to devise a policy before Canada becomes a target.
[ad#125-right]A simple policy is to value food production for our own population before providing deals with other countries, including the US by the way. Exports appear to be important today, but this practice is exporting not just a food product, but the land, water, oil and labor used to produce it, which may have otherwise been available for locally consumed foods. A policy such as this would appear antagonistic on the global front, but has a long history before the recent globalization of the marketplace. It will be interesting to see the political manoeuvrings around this topic in the coming years.