THE private sector has a key role to play as Bahrain seeks to achieve self-sufficiency in 10 key food commodities, including wheat, rice, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, a top trader has said.According to Bahrain Chamber food wealth committee chairman Khalid Al Amin, by investing in agricultural production and developing food processing and packaging industries, businesses can partner with the government in national food security efforts.
Besides targeting self-sufficiency in 10 key food commodities, the Bahrain National Food Security Strategy 2020-2030 also includes measures to improve the efficiency of food production, diversify food imports, and build strategic food reserves, he added.Highlighting the work of the committee in promoting local food production and improving the efficiency of the food supply chain, Mr Al Amin listed lentils processor Bahrain Agriculture Foods (Bafco), localised coffee capsule specialist Dallaspresso, newly-launched shrimp breeder Gulf Farming Company and the upcoming Bahrain Sugar Refinery as major success stories.“Bafco exported 4,000 tonnes of lentils in less than a year to markets like Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Sudan, Germany, Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, South Africa, Oman and Rwanda, and is looking forward to other markets soon, while Dallaspresso has started exporting coffee capsules to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait,” he told a media briefing at the business association’s Bait Al Tijjar headquarters in Sanabis yesterday.
The Omani-owned Bahrain Sugar Refinery is expected to start operating soon with a production capacity of about 600,000 tonnes per year for sugar, 7,600 tonnes per year for molasses, and 10,000 tonnes per year for yeast.“The chamber is working alongside Tamkeen, Economic Development Board (EDB) and the government to ensure we have enough food for Bahrain and for exports and lately we have been trying to attract more big players to set up manufacturing here.”Mr Al Amin called on local and foreign investors to take advantage of Bahrain’s business-friendly environment and develop storage and processing facilities for rice, cooking oil, sugar and salt, which were staple foods.The official also reiterated the need for a national food regulatory authority, which would be responsible for ensuring affordable availability, safety and quality of food in the country.
This is already a part of government plans under the national strategy for food security which recommends introducing unified criteria for licences within the Works Ministry, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry and the Industry and Commerce Ministry until the authority is launched, and allocating a special fund for food security within the national budget.Among the recommendations included in the strategy are imposing restrictions on excessive imports that compete with local products; encouraging banks to enter as partners or financing food security projects; seeking financial support from international organisations Bahrain belongs to; forging unified deals with other GCC member states on food security; and securing plots in other countries that Bahrainis could invest in for agriculture.
On the recent decision by India to levy a 40 per cent export duty on onions and a ban on exports of non-basmati white rice in a bid to contain inflation, Mr Al Amin said there was no impact on the pricing and availability of the two essential commodities in Bahrain as sufficient stocks were present and they could also be procured from suppliers such as Pakistan, China, and Egypt.He added that the government had diversified its food imports by sourcing food from a wider range of countries, reducing the country’s reliance on any one supplier and making it more resilient to disruptions in the global food supply chain, having experienced this during the initial phase of Covid-19.A GDN report last month said Bahrain ranks second among Gulf countries in The Global Food Security 2022 second quarter report.
New initiatives to achieve food security in Bahrain include aqua-farming, animal and agriculture projects as well as increasing the production of poultry.It said BD400 million worth of projects were underway to establish hydroponic farms and 356 greenhouses – covering 260,000sqm of land – which will produce 3,600 tonnes of food annually.Talking about the upcoming 2023 Bahrain Food Excellence Awards, a chamber initiative that aims to recognise and celebrate the achievements of the local food and beverage industry, Mr Al Amin said they help to attract investment and inspire other businesses to strive for excellence.
“The annual awards are open to all food and beverage companies in Bahrain and the three categories are: Organisations: Established companies that have consistently met high standards in food safety, quality, innovation, and sustainability; Emerging Enterprises: Small and medium-sized companies that have shown rapid growth and have the potential to become major players in the industry and; Productive Families: Families that have been involved in the food and beverage industry for at least three generations,” he added.
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