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    Why did Saudi Arabia finance the World Food Summit in Rome?

    Güven Sak, PhD21 November 2009 - Okunma Sayısı: 1163


    At the beginning of this week, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the World Food Summit in Rome. As the media suggests, the meeting was not much successful; it was referred to as a waste of time. Developed countries did not declare a concrete program to fight with world hunger. Ordinary "politician" declarations were made considering the elimination of hunger. The last issue of the Economist magazine started an article on food security with a quotation from former US Foreign Minister Henry Kissinger: At the first World Food Summit convened in 1974 Kissinger said "within the decade, no child will go to bed hungry". Now we are in 2009, and the number of hungry people rose by 100 million reaching a billion.

    Have you noticed that Honorable Prime Minister of Turkey was also in the last summit? He also participated in the waste of time. Do not worry; we will not waste your time by talking about how the summit was a waste of time. We are more concerned with the fact that the meeting in Rome was financed by Saudi Arabia. Why is Saudi Arabia enthusiastic for financing World Food Summit on Food Security? What is the concern of the Saudi Arabia?

    Concern of the Saudi Arabia is climate change. As Zeki Yamai, former minister of oil of the country, suggested "misfortune of Saudi Arabia is that it is pullulated by oil rather than water." In the current process of rapid transformation, lack of sufficient water resources sets Saudi Arabia into a serious quest for food security. See, God also gives trouble to those equipped with oil reserves. As argued, the country gave priority to improving arable fields between 1980 and 1999. The effort to develop agriculture to ensure food security consumed two thirds of the non-renewable water resources of the country. Acknowledging that this is not the solution, Saudi Arabia, in the twenty first century, decided that protecting water resources in the face of climate change is of greater importance. Domestic production was abolished and Saudi Arabia returned to international food market as a net purchaser. Rapid price movements in the food market in 2007 and 2008 accelerated the quests.

    This time, Saudi Arabia decided to compile arable land out of its territories and focus on production. Hail Agricultural Development Company established in February 2009 started to purchase wide lands from Sudan. By the way, the government has allocated around $800 million for this. A similar agreement was also signed with the Tanzanian government. Rapid movements in world food prices are the reason behind Saudi Arabia's interest in arable lands in Sudan as well as in Turkey. But the main reason behind all is the concerns about protecting water resources. This seems of importance in the face of climate change.

    Quest of Saudi Arabia and a series of small countries for arable lands and their emphasis on forming large farms there naturally gave way to political discussions on neo-colonialism. Was not it the same in the past? Capitalists discovered a far-away location with rich raw material resources. Then, a railway between that location and the closest port-to-be was built. This way, a city at the port was built. Local people would extract raw materials and load them on trains. Finally, a man to load the materials to the ship was needed. Local people other than these could be killed. Such was life back then. If the world was left for the use of capitalists, it would no longer be a place to live. Now, honestly, is there a motive for neo-colonialism in the current process of climate change? Yes, there is indeed. Let us wait and see the how the shape of it will be.

    Thus, due to this rising political discussions, Saudi Arabia has been providing significant amount of funds for Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, since 2008. $500 million transferred in 2008 was to provide food finance for small countries. Financing of World Food Summit in 2009 was decided also in this context.

    Why? What is the source of the food security discussions? By 2050, world population will increase by one third of the current population. In this period, demand for agricultural products is expected to rise by 70 percent. In the meanwhile, demand for meet will be doubled. These figures imply a transformation. Middle class will widen, nutrition habits will change, and food demand will increase irrespectively with the population increase. I did not say "What happens if 1 billion Chinese people starts using deodorants?" for nothing. In the meanwhile, agricultural sector becomes poorer in terms of investments. This is the first problem. Second, in such milieu, increasing productivity over existing arable lands gains importance. Third, the discussions eventually lock in biotechnology and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

    Once we were wondering "Why does Saudi Arabia finance the FAO meeting?"And here we are discussing GMOs. Let us also touch upon this issue.


    This commentary was published in Referans daily on 12.11.2009