ABU DHABI // The Emirates is seeking to invest in agriculture projects in Kazakhstan as part of its drive to establish new sources of food, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, said last night at the start of a three-day visit to the former Soviet state. The President said relations between the two countries had developed steadily in recent years, resulting in joint investment projects, the state news agency WAM reported.
Sheikh Khalifa outlined potential new areas of investment for Emirati investors, both private and public, including farming. "The UAE is looking forward to investing in agricultural projects in a bid to diversify its sources of food supplies," he said in a statement released by the agency soon after he arrived. Kazakhstan is the world's fifth-biggest wheat exporter. Food prices in the UAE, where 85 per cent of food is imported, have been rising and the Government has been looking abroad for solutions. The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development already has plans to farm 29,400 hectares in northern Sudan, while the Ministry of Economy is understood to be considering purchasing farmland in Pakistan worth Dh1.8bn (US$500m).
Last month, Dr Kayan Jaff, the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Abu Dhabi, said the UAE and other GCC states would have to invest billions of dollars in overseas farms to address soaring food prices. Sheikh Khalifa said he hoped that his visit and subsequent talks with Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, would bolster to the already strong UAE-Kazak relations. Private investors, meanwhile, were looking for investment opportunities in other sectors in Kazakhstan, including infrastructure development and oil and mineral resources, said the President.
In addition to large reserves of oil and natural gas, the country has significant deposits of coal, iron, gold, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, copper and diamonds. Sheikh Khalifa said the UAE's private sector had been lifted by state policy that encouraged foreign investment. The close co-operation at the official level had "laid the ground for private sector initiatives", he said in the statement, including joint ventures in tourism, property and production.
The UAE and Kazakhstan, primarily an Islamic nation, shared common views on many regional and international issues, said the President. "This commonality could constitute a strong ground for even stronger relations which we are striving to achieve." Sheikh Khalifa is accompanied by a high-ranking delegation that includes several senior ministers as well as the UAE ambassador to Kazakhstan, Ibrahim Hassan Saif.