Gap unbridged: Gulf food industries
A recent report published by Al-Watan newspaper has revealed that the total value of investments in the local food industries doubled between 1990 and 1999. According to the report, the investments in this sector totaled $2.849 billion in 1990, while by the end of the decade the figure stood at $6.405 billion. These figures imply that during those years, investments of $3.556 billion were put into the food industries throughout the Gulf.
The number of food manufacturing factories operating in the Arabian Gulf states grew from 664 in 1990 to 1,073 by 1999. The average investment per factory rose from $4.3 million to $6 million during the same period. In addition, the total number of employees in these industries increased from 39,000 to 79,000, with the average number of employees per factory rising from 62 to 80.
The Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting reported that the total investments in the Saudi food manufacturing industry had grown to $4.048 billion in 1999, up from 41.767 billion in 1990, reflecting a 149 percent growth. The average investment per factory jumped from $5.1 million to $8.7 million during the same period.
This organization revealed that the majority of food workers in the Arabian Gulf states are concentrated in Saudi Arabia. The number of workers employed in the kingdom’s industries grew from 22,344 in 1990 to 47,737 by the end of the decade, constituting a 113 percent jump. The average number of workers employed by a single manufacturing plant rose from 46 to 95 during the same period.
Similar growth rates were recorded in the UAE and Kuwait. The investments in this sector in the UAE had grown to $641.4 million in 1999, up from $199.4 million in 1990, a 221 percent growth. The investment value per factory averaged at $3.2 million, up from $2.1 million at the beginning of the decade.
In Kuwait, a 10 percent growth rate was achieved in the investments put into the food manufacturing industries, growing from $546.7 million in 1990 to $601.4 million by 1999. The average investment value per factory, however, decreased from $11.2 million to $7.9 million during the same period.
Despite the general trend of increased investment in the Gulf food industries, the food gap in the Arab World still remains high. According to the Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting, this gap is assessed at $14 billion annually. The food exports of the Arab countries are valued at $5 billion, whereas these countries’ food imports are estimated at $19 billion. — (Albawaba-MEBG)