New investment push to boost Bahrain's farm output

Company will first invest in developing agriculture through modern technologies

Image used for illustrative purpose. Palmtrees along King Faisal Highway in Bahrain. Showing the new developments. On the right the world trade center under a clear blue sky.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Palmtrees along King Faisal Highway in Bahrain. Showing the new developments. On the right the world trade center under a clear blue sky.

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Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund is set to invest in a number of major projects, including a food security investment company, a top minister has revealed.

Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed, who is politically responsible for Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, said setting up a specialised company for investment in food security has come under serious consideration following numerous studies based on directives by His Majesty King Hamad.

The company, expected to start work in the middle of the year, will first invest in developing agriculture through modern technologies.

The minister added that other projects will include hydroponics, aquaculture and water farming across Bahrain’s four governorates.

“The new company will help increase local produce,” said Mr Ahmed.

He added that the General Poultry Company, also fully owned by Mumtalakat, would see its capacity doubled gradually through a massive expansion.

The minister, responding in writing to a question by Shura Council youth and sports committee vice-chairman Bassam Albinmohammed, said Mumtalakat would be making huge investments primarily in three sectors.

“Around 0.8pc (of Mumtalakat’s total investment assets) is be being spent on food and agriculture, 11.5pc on media, telecommunications and technology and 0.7pc on healthcare.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ahmed, also politically responsible for Tamkeen, said in another response to a question by Shura legislative and legal affairs committee chairwoman Dalal Al Zayed that the proposal to provide financing for Bahrainis to invest in agriculture plots abroad contradicted set-up rules.

“We back the agriculture sector locally through financial support ranging between BD500 and BD10,000 for micro businesses and BD5,000 to BD500,000 for small and medium businesses and between BD1 million to BD2.5m for bigger and large businesses over a 10-year repayment period,” said Mr Ahmed.

“So far five people have benefited in the micro category with BD6,500 given in total, 27 have benefited in the small and medium category with BD4.5m given in total, and two large companies benefited together from BD2.7m.

“Backing agriculture projects abroad, even for Bahrainis, means that we are directing our resources to develop other economies and not ours.

“Products here could be marketed and exported abroad, not vice versa.”

The minister also revealed existing projects that people have benefited from.

“We have also numerous projects like the Bahraini Farmers’ Market which sees spending BD225,000 with 52 Bahraini farmers benefiting each year for three years and the National Aquaculture Programme with spending reaching up to BD88,000 for 15 Bahrainis, who each cost us BD5,876 in training.

“The Permanent Market to Promote Local Produce will see 60 local farmers benefiting from BD250,000 allocated from Tamkeen to fund the project.

“Our entrepreneurs development programme also sees support to 50 companies in agriculture with BD1.3m allotted.”

Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf said 200 tonnes were produced through aquaculture in Bahrain annually in response to a question by member Nawar Al Mahmood.

“We currently produce 200 tonnes annually in aquaculture from eight major companies and we are working to increase this number,” said Mr Khalaf.

“The new aquaculture company in process of launch and developing the state aquaculture centre would increase the consumed fish from 50pc to 62pc of that caught from the sea, which is around 14,000 to 19,000 tonnes.”

In response to another question by member Sabah Al Dossary, he said that plans for artificial coral reefs launched in 2011 was cancelled in 2012 with the allocated funds redirected to other projects.

Shura Council members will be notified about the replies during the weekly session on Sunday.

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