As oil reserves dry up, the Gulf States are going in search of alternative sources of income. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are investing heavily in horticulture. Last month Jo Wijnands of LEI visited both countries together with representatives from the Dutch horticulture sector to assess the possibilities.
The plans are ambitious, says Jo Wijnands who works for LEI. There is already a big farm with six hectares of greenhouse space, where tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are being grown.
The burning question is of course whether there is enough water in the desert to grow tomatoes. ‘It is one big sandpit,’ agrees Wijnands. ‘But a lot is possible if the water is used efficiently. Drip irrigation can be done in the greenhouses, with water that is pumped up from the ground. And in the future they will grow plants on rock wool to make it even more efficient.’ Wijnands will be returning to the Gulf States soon.