The New Prospectors: Arab Countries Look Overseas for Food Security

Patrick Wrigley, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008, Briefing

Seen from space Saudi Arabia looks like a chunk of reddish clay chiseled from a vast slab linking the Arabian Gulf in the east to the Atlantic coast of Mauritania in the west. This desert-like landscape, stretching almost 5,000 miles across the Middle East, stands in stark relief to the green, fertile lands of Turkey and Europe to the north and the central African jungles of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south.

However, looking closer, from the perspective of an airplane flying over the kingdom, one would notice that the great sand sea of Saudi Arabia is pockmarked by a series of small dark circles, like clusters of mould staining the virgin land. These incongruous black, green and brown circles no more than half a mile in diameter are in fact wheat farms. The large fields, perfectly circular, as if drawn on the land with a protractor, are part of the kingdom's substantial agricultural sector. ...