Investment opportunities in Saudi aquaculture sector
Following my article last week about agribusiness, another equally important sector to agriculture is aquaculture. Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing methods of producing foods in the world and is estimated by 2030 to be responsible for two-thirds of the fish that we eat.
Saudi Arabia has a long history in aquaculture since the first shrimp farms were established along the Red Sea coast in the mid-1980s. Since then, great advancements have been made, mainly due to the favorable environmental conditions of the Red Sea as well as to technologies for recirculated aquaculture systems (RAS) that are being employed by freshwater farms.
Despite the great achievements of the aquaculture sector during the past few years, it remains a developing sector with regard to production volume, expansion, and effect on economic development of the Kingdom.
In 2017 the aquaculture industry in Saudi Arabia produced about 60,000 tons of shrimp, marine and freshwater fish, having doubled its production from the year before. The plan is for 100,000 tons in 2020, and about 600,000 tons in 2030.
The local market for seafood in the country is thriving and consumption rates are expected to grow by 8 percent per annum until 2030. Population growth and the increase in consumption per capita are forecast to generate additional demand. With a declining growth in capture fisheries and stricter safety regulations imposed on imports, aquaculture is set to be the main source of supply of seafood for the Kingdom.
Investing in Saudi Arabia’s aquaculture is attractive for investors given the expanding local and international market, which is why our government has committed itself to grow this sector to its full potential. That means investing in infrastructure, research and development, marketing and supporting the sector with a SR1.3 billion ($346 million) program launched by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture. Saudi Arabia is set on meeting the highest of fish farming standards to unlock a sector that has great potential. Investment opportunities are already available and will continue as more than 20 new locations along the Red Sea were recently offered for aquaculture investment.
The potential of the clean waters of the Red Sea, the favorable environmental conditions and the advantageous geographical locations for logistics and transport requirement for seafood, have not been fully capitalized. I highly believe there is a great room for further growth in production volumes and in supplying the increasing demand for seafood in local and international markets.
• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.