Gulf ‘food gap’ widens as 90% of supplies are shipped from abroad

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: United arab emirates

The Gulf imports nearly 90% of its food, according to a study into the food gap across the region.

These findings come as it was revealed that the profits of Saudi-listed food and agricultural businesses fell by 29% in the first half of this year to just under SR2bn (US$530m)—a drop of nearly a half-billion compared to the same period in 2015.

Faisal Al-Otaibi, a researcher at the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, uncovered the region’s widening “food gap​” while investigating the structure of food commerce among Gulf Co-operative Council states.

To address this gap, which reflects the difference between consumer demand and domestic production and net imports, and help GCC states to reach self-sufficiency by boosting agriculture, Al-Otaibi advocates stronger integration by companies.

Self-sufficiency has been falling in tandem with an increased reliance on foreign markets to secure food needs, leading GCC countries to have some of the highest food gaps in the Arab world, he found.

Saudi Arabia leads region by manufacturers some 21% of its own food, followed by the UAE at 14.5%. However, Qatar and Oman registered just 3.25% each, and Bahrain a paltry 1.6%.

Meanwhile, according to a different report, the 16 listed Saudi food and agriculture businesses, worth a collective capitalisation of SAR4bn (US$1.1bn), witnessed mixed fortunes in the first six months of this year.

The initial three months of 2016 saw a grim performance by the sector, which was only tempered by improved returns in the second quarter. Dairy major Almarai accounted for almost half of the sector’s business, posting SAR905m in profits for the first half of the year.

Savola Group, which supplies general foods across the region, returned profits of SAR340m, followed by Saudi Arabian Airlines Catering Company, with SAR287m.

The main loser in the segment was Saudi Fishery Company, which incurred losses worth SAR18.8m, while Bisha Agricultural Development Company, Sharqiyah, and Tabuk registered shortfalls of SAR488,000, SR3.8m and SR7.85m respectively.

Related topics: Markets, Middle East, Supply chain

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