Economists call for reassessment of Kingdom’s wheat production

Updated 19 November 2012
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Economists call for reassessment of Kingdom’s wheat production

JEDDAH: The decision to stop wheat cultivation completely by 2016 and import the country’s requirements will create a dependence on imported food and threaten the food security of the Kingdom, top economists warned on Saturday.
Economists have asked the government to reassess its decision to limit the production of wheat and look at water rationing and the use of irrigation systems in order to continue wheat production.
Economist, Habib Allah Al-Turkustani, said the importation of wheat is expected to increase annually by 5 percent and would represent a dependence on imported food. He said wheat is a strategic commodity and too important to be subject to economic considerations.
He said most countries seek to increase local production of basic goods and aim to achieve food security. He said the decision should have been made to limit the production of berseem, a clover crop, instead of wheat. It takes five times more water to produce the same quantity of berseem as wheat. It takes only four months to harvest wheat, during which rain may fall, reducing the need to irrigate.
Al-Turkustani said: “One hectare of berseem requires 35,000 cubic meters of water. The same crop of wheat requires only 7,000 cubic meters. He called for the government to study ground water in Saudi Arabia. “Drought may affect the volume of production worldwide which can affect securing the required wheat quantities. Some countries dependent on imported wheat, have faced difficulty securing their requirements in the last two years.”
Esam Khalifa, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, agrees with Al-Turkustani. He said the country currently imports 1.9 million tons of wheat and produces 1 million ton domestically, with domestic production reducing by 12.5 percent annually. He estimates the cost to import two million tons is SR 2.5 billion. This cost is likely to increase by 5 percent by the year 2016 and the country’s wheat import bill would reach SR 4 billion. Khalifa said rationing consumption could save large quantities of water. “Ration water in car washes, expand on the use of treated water in agriculture and industry, reduce crops that consume large quantities of water like berseem, and exploit rainwater collected in dams, are just some ways to save water,” he said. “The use of water-saving irrigation systems should also be explored.” Importing the country’s requirement of wheat would require the building of larger silos, he added. Economist, Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, said he did not understand why a wheat producing country like Saudi Arabia would import wheat instead. In the 70s and 80s the country produced about 4 million tons of wheat annually. “Diary projects consume massive quantities of water. Producing a 1 liter of diary products requires 4 to 5 liters of water,” he added.
The Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization said it has the capacity to provide the Kingdom with its wheat requirement through the importation market.


World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018
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World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-ti
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”