Pioneering Saudi farm techniques bear fruit

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Updated 23 September 2013
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Pioneering Saudi farm techniques bear fruit

Saudi Arabia has unveiled a new vision for agriculture through collaboration, which aims to deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity.
This new vision, which stresses the need to produce more food with fewer resources and reinvigorating rural economies, was unveiled by Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim to coincide with National Day celebrations..
Balghonaim, who gave an overview of the agricultural production in the Kingdom, called on leaders of business, farmers and development partners “to work together” to achieve sustainable agricultural growth.
“Saudi Arabia would like to be an effective element in increasing agricultural productivity,” said the minister, while asserting that the Kingdom would like to be an effective element in the world to increase agrarian production by improving agricultural productivity at the domestic front.
He maintained that “there are many alternatives to fulfill the domestic requirement and the ministry is working out several plans to cover the market demand.”
The minister, however, expressed concern that the Kingdom so far had not achieved self-sufficiency in poultry and vegetable segment.
“What has been achieved is only sufficiency in eggs supplies,” he said.
Saudi Arabia produces 42 percent of domestic poultry consumption and 85 percent of the vegetables consumption, Balghonaim said.
He said: “There is no shortage in vegetables, despite the political issues in Syria as we have almost achieved self-sufficiency in this field and for remaining 15 percent of the market demand, there are many alternatives to cover up the requirement.”
He said: “There is a new trend of farming in the greenhouses for the production of larger quantities of vegetables.”
Moreover, we encourage the private sector for investment in agriculture,” he added.
Referring to a shortage for tomatoes the market, he said: “We want Morocco to export tomatoes to the Kingdom to meet the shortfall in the domestic market.”
Saudi Arabia signed two deals worth SR560 million recently to build a wheat silo and a flour mill at Jazan Port to raise its storage capacity to more than three million tons of wheat from around two million tons in two years, enough to cover its annual consumption, according to the minister.
The new Jazan silo will have a capacity of 120,000 tons of wheat.
Balghonaim, who also heads the country’s state-run Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO), said the second contract was to build a mill with the capacity to process 600 tons of wheat a day.
Both projects will be completed soon.
In October, Waleed El-Khereiji, director general of GSFMO said various projects were already under way to add 710,000 tons of wheat storage capacity.
Saudi Arabia plans to import more wheat this year following an increase in consumption and a planned decrease in local purchases.
The Kingdom abandoned plans for self-sufficiency in wheat in 2008 and aims to be 100 percent reliant on imports by 2016 in order to save water, said Balghonaim, adding that the country has the advantages in terms of financial experience, agricultural management.
Moreover, it maintains good relations with almost all countries to meet its agrarian requirements, the minister said.
Referring to the growth of agriculture sector and its positive impact on economy, he said Saudi Arabia’s agriculture and food sectors are expected to sustain a combined annual growth of 18.5 percent, driven by a rising population and strong consumer spending.
Food sales in the Kingdom account for around half of the domestic retail market and are expected to be worth almost $70 billion by 2016.
According to a report, Saudi Arabia’s food consumption is expected to grow by 4.2 percent between 2011 and 2015, driven by factors such as rising income levels, population growth, lifestyle shifts, and a thriving domestic economy.
The Saudi government has already allocated around $15 billion for the agricultural sector this year for projects and initiatives aimed at meeting demand.
The Saudi government is also encouraging more rapport and collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure food security in the Kingdom, which ranks as the Middle East’s largest individual food importer and the largest market in the region for agro-food products and technologies.
The Ministry of Agriculture is heavily involved in the agriculture industry as the ministry is primarily responsible for the agricultural policies in the nation.
The private sector has been playing a major role as the Saudi government offers long-term interest free loans, along with low-cost water, fuel, electricity and duty-free imports of raw materials and machinery.
While Saudi Arabia is also the region’s largest food producer, representing 74.1 percent of total production in the GCC, it imports more than $14.2 billion worth of food and beverage products each year to meet its consumption demands.
According to BMI’s recent Q1 2013 report, this will rise to $35.2 billion by 2020.
Analysts also predict the country’s changing dietary pattern from carbohydrate-rich to protein-rich and high-value food products will create new opportunities for food companies in the Kingdom.
In order to address the growing food demands from consumers, the Saudi government plans to inject $22.1 billion into its food security initiative, said the report.
The move is aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on food imports as well as provide employment for up to 46,000 people.
A young and growing population coupled by a thriving domestic economy is changing food consumption habits, creating significant opportunities for importers and exporters. Hence, the Kingdom and its agencies have taken several initiatives to boost agriculture production, including dairy and poultry production.
The state-owned Agricultural Development Fund has launched a seven-point initiative that will change the whole face of Saudi Arabia’s agricultural sector.
The plan is now ready for implementation. It includes establishing agricultural information center, water conservation in irrigation except for wheat and fodder, establishing an entity or more for handling and marketing vegetables and fruit and another for fish, cooperative insurance for livestock sector starting with poultry, dates marketing, and cattle breeding company.
The main objective behind the launch of these initiatives is to keep up with local, regional and international variables in agriculture sector.
He pointed out that the staff in charge conducted a study on the market situation where they understood all viewpoints of related parties to the market and discussed solutions to the problems experienced by the Kingdom markets.
Among recommendations and proposals that will be included in the new initiatives, is creation of markets for farmers.
In fact, the Saudi government has been trying and supporting farmers to be more productive for the last several decades.
The government mobilized substantial financial resources to support the raising of crops and livestock during the 1970s and 1980s.
The main institutions involved were the Ministry of Agriculture and Water, the Saudi Arabian Agricultural Bank (SAAB) and the GSFMO.
SAAB provided interest-free loans to farmers in 1989 — for example, 26.6 percent of loans were for well drilling and casing, 23 percent for agricultural projects, and the balance for the purchase of farm machinery, pumps, and irrigation equipment.
SAAB also provided subsidies for buying other capital inputs.
GSFMO implemented the official procurement program, purchasing locally produced wheat and barley at guaranteed prices for domestic sales and exports.
The procurement price was steadily reduced during the 1980s because of massive overproduction and for budgetary reasons, but it was substantially higher than international prices.
By the late 1980s, the procurement price for wheat, for example, was three times the international price.
On the top of this, agricultural and water authorities provided massive subsidies in the form of low-cost desalinated water, and electric companies were required to supply power at reduced charges. The program prompted a huge response from the private sector, with average annual growth rates well above those programmed.
These growth rates were underpinned by a rapid increase in land brought under cultivation and agricultural production.


Jeddah workshop warns of the dangers of litter

Volunteers and environmental enthusiasts at a recent cleaning campaign activity in Jeddah. (Supplied Image)
Updated 3 min 40 sec ago
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Jeddah workshop warns of the dangers of litter

  • Our events have not only been well received by Saudis, but we also had several requests to conduct our workshops at schools, offices and even hospitals: Love Earth founder
  • Love Earth was founded in August by Dana Droubi, 27, and Diana Rifai, 28, a freelance journalist and community manager at Humming Tree Jeddah

JEDDAH: 

A workshop titled “Pathways to Sustainable Living” was hosted by the Jeddah-based environmental group Love Earth at Kayan Space on Saturday to raise awareness about litter and its effects on us and the environment — particularly plastic waste in the oceans.

It included explanatory talks by Essam Jawa, founder of the group Team Up to Clean Up; Emad Salhab, committee member of Hejaz Ploggers; and Mouna Othman, co-founder of Naqaa Sustainable Solutions, who discussed environmental issues inside and outside the Kingdom.

Love Earth was founded in August by Dana Droubi, 27, and Diana Rifai, 28, a freelance journalist and community manager at Humming Tree Jeddah. Both are Syrians, humanitarians and environmental enthusiasts. 

“We founded Love Earth to spread and promote awareness on matters related to the environment, that is including animals,” Rifai told Arab News. “In addition, we plan to promote humanitarian and volunteer work to encourage people to take part in giving back to their community. Basically we believe in a global community, and that you do not have to be a citizen of a country to care for people in need, animals in need or the environment. 

“Our events have not only been well received by Saudis, but we also had several requests to conduct our workshops at schools, offices and even hospitals.

“We had a lot of Saudis in our audience, and their presence was very much needed and important because we must focus on how important it is that such a crucial cause be a global and not just a local one. If we all work together then the outcome will definitely be worth it!” 

Love Earth’s forthcoming plans include preparing several workshops for schools and businesses. “In addition to that we are working in Go Green initiatives for homes and small businesses — basically a guide to separating your waste, where to take it and how to reduce the use of harmful products that have a short life cycle,” said Rifai.

“We are currently working with big names and leaders in this field (supermarkets, shops, schools, companies) to bring hope and much more awareness, all focused on making this world a better place.” 

Love Earth contributes to Saudi Vision 2030’s goals in many ways, she said. “It promotes and empowers environmental awareness and a sustainable lifestyle through educational programs and workshops, and works on decreasing litter in collaboration with local initiatives such as beach and street cleanups. Most importantly our main goal is to raise as much awareness as possible and help make the road to a greener world an easier and fun one.”

Jawa, 53, a Saudi Arabian Airlines captain, highlighted how he and his team — as their name suggests — team up to clean up.

“The idea is to raise awareness about littering and its effects on us and the environment by establishing groups of volunteers, environmental enthusiasts, and protectors in every district to lead our cleaning campaign to expand our activity throughout Jeddah city,” he said. 

“We will clean in public areas or populated spots where members of society shop or perform their usual sports activity to better expose our initiative to the masses and gain public support and enlarge our member base,” he said. “Having started in a group cleanup for the past weeks, we took it a step further this week to sort the trash collected on site so that we can recycle it by patterning with potential recycling plants. We have other plans to reuse plastic and glass bottles to recreate items for multiple functions such as decoration and storage.” 

His group consists of 90 members and the number is rapidly growing. “It is an amazing sign that we are on the right track.”

The group’s goal is to educate the younger generation by taking quick action “to reflect that littering is not acceptable anymore and it has to come to a halt. We need to take more responsibility toward our city and our planet.”

Jawa urges the public to start taking environmental responsibility as the consequences are horrific. “You need to start thinking about how you can distribute the awareness of the hazardous effects of plastic bags and water bottles on us and the environment,” he said.

“Marine pollution in our oceans today comprises around 80 percent plastic waste. And it is speculated that by the year 2050, there will more plastic than fish. A strange phenomenon more directly affecting us is the notion of plastic breaking down into micro plastics that we, in turn, ingest when we eat seafood and more recently in conventional water bottles. As a result a number of diseases arise, putting our health into serious jeopardy,” he warned.

“We are sending a message not as much as we clean, because no matter how much we clean, it will never be enough. Some areas take up to a year or two to clean up; we are trying to influence people to take responsibility and clean up after themselves.”

Jawa’s message to people is: “Let’s value the future in a timescale longer than ours.” 

Syrian project supervisor Emad Salhab, 30, gave a presentation on behalf of the founder of Hejaz Bloggers, Taha Boksmati. 

He explained that plogging is a combination of jogging while picking up litter. This organized activity started in Sweden in 2016 then spread worldwide since then. 

Jeddah Ploggers consist of 70 members so far. “By cleaning and keeping our city clean, it encourages tourism and reflects a good image of the country. We raise awareness for the new generation to have a sustainable life, to build new standards and concepts to make the Kingdom a better place,” Salhab told Arab News. 

Naqaa Sustainability Solutions is a Saudi social business founded in 2011 in Jeddah by young Saudi women, and has launched many green initiatives. 

Othman, co-founder and sustainable development specialist, said the business helps and advises all sectors from corporate and government offices to schools across Saudi Arabia to launch interactive and sustainable waste reduction strategies and recycling programs.

“Because up to 70 percent of office waste is recyclable, that is why we specialize in working with corporations and organizations to achieve environmental sustainability. We strive to enhance companies and organizations’ environmental sustainability performance,” she said.