Consumption challenge: Bahrain steps up food security efforts as it drops in global ranking
The Bahrain government involving the Industry, Commerce and Tourism and Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning departments has now announced a national strategy for food security to increase the volume of local production.
Due to its limited ability to cultivate crops, Bahrain relies heavily on food imports to meet local food demand, importing about 94% of its food.
The national strategy will include allocating multiple sites for fish farming, supporting sustainable fish farming, intensify financing for agriculture and livestock, enhance investment in agricultural projects in Bahrain and abroad, attracting foreign investment, all in hopes to keep up with demands of local food consumption.
The national project will also aim to expand, prolong and monitor local food stocks over time.
In addition, the Bahrain government already announced in 2018 a plan to build a research centre to study soil degradation, water use and food security.
Hydroponic and aquaculture
In the GFSI, Bahrain was listed as one of the four countries most exposed to flooding, temperature rise and drought. Bahrain faces unique agronomic challenges including limited arable land, high temperatures, water scarcity and rising groundwater salinity, which limits the choice of crops that could be grown in the country.
Alternative agricultural practices such as hydroponic farming have since become increasingly popular in Bahrain. An example is Al Ghalia Farms which produces locally grown hydroponic vegetables. Another company, Peninsula Farms is a producer of hydroponic vegetables and goat milk.
The undersecretary of Agriculture and Maritime Resources at the Ministry of Works, Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning, Dr. Nabil Muhammad Abu Al-Fateh said aquaculture was also a vital sector in Bahrain’s quest to achieving sustainable food security.
Among the efforts by the government include advancing the fishing sector in the country, for instance the Agriculture and Marine Resources Agency is financing shrimp fishermen with fishing gear.
In February 2020, Bahrain and UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to exchange expertise, studies and research related to food security. This partnership will involve conducting joint training programmes.
UAE ranks high on the GFSI 2019 list, at 21st, only behind Qatar (13th).
Among other Middle Eastern countries, Kuwait ranked 27th, Saudi Arabia (30th), Turkey (41st), and Oman (46th). Egypt ranked lower than Bahrain at 55th.
According to IMF, the population in Bahrain is set to grow at a CAGR of 2.0% between 2018 and 2023. Euromonitor reported that the population is projected to nearly double and hit 2.6 million by 2030, driven by rising inbound tourists and expatriates.
Food consumption is forecast to grow from 0.8 million MT in 2018 to 1.0mn MT in 2023. However, the country only met 11.0% of its food consumption needs from production in 2016 compared to 16.2% in 2011.
Instead, total volume of net food imports in Bahrain grew 7.8% between 2011 and 2016, a greater increase than bigger GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia (5.3%) and UAE (3.1%).
The Bahraini government hopes by providing loans and subsidies to farmers can encourage the private sector and eventually help boost local production.