Mena governments have been urged by an agriculture expert to address food scarcity issues and safeguard meagre natural resources.
John Lawton, general manager of the Agricultural Technology Company in Saudi Arabia, said that food scarcity has become a crucial issue in the Mena region and delay in addressing this could result in food insecurity, very high costs of food and potentially, starvation.
“Food is set to become one of the major world problems and unless these issues are addressed now millions of people in future decades could face low nutrition levels or starvation,” said Lawton, who has more than 35 years of experience in the agricultural sector.
Lawton will speak about the use of undeveloped arid areas for intensive food production at the Agribusiness Outlook Forum – a feature of Agra Middle East, the leading agribusiness trade event in the region, taking place from April 2 – 4 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.
Only about two per cent of land in the GCC region is currently arable, and this coupled with severe water scarcity, presents a significant challenge for the region to become wholly self-sufficient in producing its own food, he said.
Lawton contends however that with the right management, research and knowledge sharing, arid countries can become more self-sufficient, and ensure higher food production efficiency.
“The main barrier to cultivating arid zones such as those in the Mena region is the lack of adequate water resources, coupled with the inefficient and wasteful use of much of the already limited resource,” he added.
“Proper management skills and training at all levels is vital so that the return of this limited resource is maximised. Additionally, proper studies and full knowledge of the available water resources and proper management of these at all levels, from the government to the individual who applies the water can help to overcome the water scarcity issue.”
Apart from being widely experienced in farm management and machinery sales and consultancy, Lawton has also developed a large market for Alvan Blanch maize and barley flaking mills along with Supreme Total Mixed Ration (TMR) feeders in the last ten years, working with large farm groups in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Yemen.
Now in its second year, the Agribusiness Outlook Forum will feature a panel of international experts presenting delegates with a platform to discuss insights into food security and sustainable agricultural systems.
Being held under the patronage of Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, Agra Middle East is supported by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai Municipality, the Dubai Flower Centre, and the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech).