The New Prospectors: Arab Countries Look Overseas for Food Security

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.

Like its imports of Scottish sand, it comes as something of a surprise that the desert kingdom has been a significant producer of grains. In 1992, Saudi Arabia produced 4.1 million tons of durum wheat, much of which was exported to former eastern bloc countries or donated as aid to Arab regimes likes Syria. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long used the oil profits to defy the forces of nature so that the desert offers up not only oil but also food, trees and flowers.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.