Food security is a major issue for the six governments of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). With scarce water and limited agricultural land, it is only by looking abroad that these governments can start to ensure an adequate food supply for their citizens. In a region faced with political unrest, the need for food security is arguably greater now than ever before.

Gulf investors, primarily from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are interested in agriculture-related investments as part of the GCC food security programme. And when a GCC government provides political support to another government, such as Qatar politically supporting Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, its gives Qatari investors an advantage.

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Qatar’s Hassad Food and listed Qatar Meat and Livestock Company (Mawashi) are active investors in Sudan. Last December, Mawashi invested in three projects there to the value of $60m for the cultivation of fodder, cattle and poultry. In 2009, Hassad Food, a member of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), entered into a joint venture with the Sudanese government for a farmland development joint venture that could be worth up to $1bn. The starting capital was $100m, according to the company's website. The deal is reported to give access to 101,171 hectares of cultivated land.

The UAE’s Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has been given 252,000 hectares of farmland in Sudan but it has been slow to develop it, according to a local media report.

Sudan-based Kenana Sugar Company, the world’s largest integrated sugar company, is also jointly owned by a group of Arab investors and the Sudanese government. Hassad Food also owns and develops farms in Australia. In 2010, it announced it was planning to acquire a sugar project in Brazil. 

The state-owned Saudi Company for Agriculture Investment and Animal Production (SCAIAP) is looking to team up with Saudi investors in joint agricultural-related projects overseas, according to a Mergermarket report. Projects could be greenfield or joint-venture deals in which SCAIAP could participate as a partner or sign-off take agreements.