The GCC fruits and vegetable market is expected to register a CAGR of 8.6% during the forecast period (2020-2025). Most of the countries in the GCC region are not self-sufficient, in terms of fruits and vegetables. Hence, the countries are mostly dependent on imports, in order to satiate their domestic demands. The major factors driving the market studied are the growing number of retail chains and the ease of accessibility to consumers. Smart farming practices, like hydroponics, have been serving as a vital alternative for traditional cucumber farming in Kuwait. This increase in the adoption of new farming technologies is primarily attributed to a reduction in the production cost, coupled with the consumer inclination toward pesticide-free products.
Key Market Trends
Effective Food Security Initiatives will Aid in Increasing Production
The food security of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), depends almost entirely upon international trade. Imports typically account for 80–90% of food consumption. The food accessibility (food affordability) and allocation are low across the region, and thus, the government of GCC countries is adopting various measures to ensure food security within their homeland. For instance, a political blockade in Qatar turned into a boon for its food security as the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC), in cooperation with shopping malls and large retail outlets, unveiled the “National Product” of "Made in Qatar" initiative. Under this initiative, farmers have been growing fruits and vegetables in greenhouses, and these are being sold as goods bearing the slogan “National Product” prominently to facilitate consumers’ access to these products. In another instance, the Ruler of Dubai appointed a new Minister of State for Food Security in 2017, signaling a renewed focus on this strategic policy area. Following similar steps to achieve food security, Saudi Arabia’s agriculture minister said, in a G20 preparatory meeting in 2019, that the country would focus on digital technologies and artificial intelligence as a strategy to increase agricultural production. Thus, the overall initiatives taken by the policymakers and governing authorities of the region to increase food security may drive the fresh produce market during the forecast period.
Demand of Hydroponic Cultivation
In the GCC region, renewable freshwater resources are among the lowest in the world, and soils are fragile, with over 95% of land on the Arabian Peninsula subjected to some form of desertification. This makes agriculture difficult, however, a new technology, hydroponic agriculture, is giving farmers of the region the much-needed hope for self-sufficiency. Hydroponics, the process of using a nutrient-rich water solution to sustain plants without the need for soil, is being applied on a mass scale in farms across the desert. This type of agriculture is most suitable for growing fresh fruits and vegetables, such as tomato, cucumber, spinach, peppers, and strawberries. The technology has been standardized for various vegetable crops, and it has great potential, especially in the regions, like the Middle East, where billions of dollars are invested to import food and grains, due to water scarcity and unfavorable environmental conditions for agriculture. With a steadily increasing population and mounting concerns over a food shortage crisis soon, scientists and farmers are looking forward to putting less pressure on the planet’s natural resources with this new technology. Thus, hydroponic agriculture is likely to boost the production of fresh fruits and vegetables in the GCC region, during the forecast period.
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