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IN his message to the world on the occasion of World Food Day few years ago, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “What we say is not just a reminder of the importance of food for every person on the planet, but it is a call to action for achieving food security in the world.” There is no doubt that the lack of food supplies exacerbates poverty and famine. Therefore, when the call to work on self-sufficiency is made, the matter should not be considered as a joke.
Rather, it is a call for self-preservation, as there are many countries that lack huge agricultural areas, use advanced methods to secure their resources locally, and seek help from abroad only within narrow limits. Kuwait, unlike other countries in the world, had agricultural fields before the discovery of oil, and they were sufficient for its limited number of people. However, the fever of oil wealth changed all this, and the agriculture trend was disrupted. Given that we have become affluent, we opted to import everything we need.
Some of them come from neighboring countries, which began to establish an industrial and agricultural base after us, and eventually became a source for Arab markets within a few years. Why did Kuwait lag behind and the other GCC countries advance in this field? The answer does not need lengthy research. It is summed up in the absence of real incentives, and the threats to withdraw the agricultural or industrial plots. On the other hand, the complications caused by the various institutions in granting licenses for raising livestock or poultry, agriculture or industry prevent the development of this type of industries and crafts. The Emirates, which began the development process years after us, entered the market of food self-sufficiency in all fields, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
Now it even has space industries. Likewise, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been working for a long time to develop its industrial and agricultural resources, has turned into a source of milk, cheese, livestock, poultry, and eggs for the neighboring countries. Arab countries that are considered agricultural have also developed their heavy industries, and entered the field of military industrialization years ago.
In all countries of the world that seek to stimulate the national industry, governments offer great privileges to manufacturers, livestock breeders and farmers. The sheep that Kuwait imports from Australia are mainly for the production of wool.
After being sheared, they are sold to markets abroad. Raising them is not expensive, but unfortunately, this activity had existed in Kuwait before oil and is now almost extinct. Therefore, when the late Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran said at the beginning of last century, “Woe to a nation that eats what it does not grow, drinks what it does not squeeze, and wears what it does not weave”, he had been highlighting the Trainproblem that had occured at the beginning of the global economic crisis, and after the great famine that struck the Levant during World War I when the countries of the region devoted their efforts to war and destroyed agriculture. For 60 years, Kuwait has been living in the hope of being self-sufficient and diversifying sources of income, but this will not be achieved as long as our governments do not have any plan in this regard. As expected, with the continuation of bickering between the government and the parliament, there will be no plan, but the sale of oil and the populist parliamentary demands to increase the grants on the voters will continue.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times