Natural conditions have made domestic food production an ongoing challenge for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over the past few decades, these countries have been able to leverage their substantial economic resources to address these challenges, largely through food imports. Given their fiscal strength, the GCC countries' main food security challenge will not likely be due to an increase in the price of food, but rather a natural or man-made disruption that blocks one or more of the countries' access to food imports.
In this report by a team of researchers from emerge85 and the RAND Corporation, we characterize the food security status of GCC countries and document the predominant strategies they have taken to increase domestic food production or to facilitate access to food imports. We then consider these strategies in the context of two different scenarios: one with a high likelihood of import disruption, and one with a low likelihood of such disruption. Our analysis suggests that with a high risk of disruption, continued investment in emergency stockpiles, the establishment of a diverse portfolio of trading routes and partners, and an investment in increased domestic agriculture—particularly in improved water management—could enhance food security for GCC countries. With a low risk of disruption, these countries will likely be able to afford food imports, as long as they can continue to export oil and gas. That said, as sustained high food prices may strain national budgets or make food less accessible for some parts of the population, financial tools to hedge against the risk of an increase in price may be valuable.