Saudi firm moves toward 100% use of imported animal feeds

Updated 15 April 2014

Saudi firm moves toward 100% use of imported animal feeds

The Almarai Company has decided to stop the cultivation of fodder for animals and import it from abroad instead owing to the scarcity of water sources in the Kingdom.
Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, CEO of Almarai, said the company currently imports 100 percent of the animal feed to produce milk. Almarai is also developing an operational plan to stop the local cultivation of fodder and cover the entire needs of the domestic market by importing all products.
“Almarai is the first dairy company in Saudi Arabia which has started importing feed from abroad where the company has invested in Argentina, the United States and several European countries,” Al-Fadhli said.
Almarai has recently received the first shipment of feed estimated at 39 thousand tons coming from farms owned by the company in Argentina.
According to a recent scientific study 96 percent of water consumption in the dairy sector is provided for the cultivation of fodder, while this percentage can be provided through a plan to import feed from abroad. The study that was conducted by Saudi researchers in cooperation with specialized US companies estimated that the amount of water consumed in the dairy sector accounts for about 3.1 percent of the total consumption of the agricultural sector which consumes 16 billion cubic meters a year.
Meanwhile, the Saudi government has decided to invest in agricultural development abroad and strengthen Saudi Arabia’s position in this regard. Experts claim that the project, entitled the King Abdullah Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad will help secure national food security.
Dr. Riyadh Abu Mansour, an economic expert and CEO of Al-Belad Company for Investments said, “Several Saudi food firms had invested in Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt but the bad political situation of these countries had forced Saudi investors to look for other alternatives. Pakistan is one of these options especially as there are many Saudi agricultural investments which have seen successful results during the last ten years.”
Speaking to Arab News, he said “About 25 percent of Saudi agriculture firms have also started investing in Australia to import wheat, while there are other local firms which are interested in investing more in EU countries.”
Until six years ago, the Kingdom’s policy makers advocated self sufficiency for its local wheat cultivation, as well as some other products such as milk, meat and eggs. However, as it became clear that levels of subsidies required for farmers and limited water resources were making domestic wheat production unviable, the government decided to gradually wind down operations and opt instead to meet their wheat requirements through imports.
The Kingdom is expected to phase out domestic wheat production completely by 2016 as farmers are encouraged to shift their focus toward alternative crops. At the same time, wheat imports are increasing rapidly as the government looks to bridge the widening gap between falling domestic production and rising demand. Saudi Arabia is expected to import 1.96 million tones of wheat for human consumption within the period 2012 to 2014, according to estimates of the local office of the US Department of agriculture.
“Agriculture investments abroad depend on buying a large area of land in countries which have natural sources to develop an agriculture industry. Therefore, the best way to ensure food security is to invest in those countries through buying agriculture lands,” Dr. Naser Al-Boqami told Arab News.
A number of Saudi companies decided early to invest in Sudan as is evident from the recent acquisition of agricultural lands covering an area of approximately 4,000 acres in Sudan’s northern region by four Saudi companies to raise various crops. The region has so far attracted 32 investment projects from the Arabian Gulf countries, covering an approximate area of 14 million acres, all located in the upper areas of the river Nile.


Gold rush at Turkish bazaar a test of trust for lowly lira

Updated 28 min 54 sec ago

Gold rush at Turkish bazaar a test of trust for lowly lira

  • As precious metal prices soar, Turks rush to buy amid economic uncertainty and a volatile currency

ISTANBUL: Hasan Ayhan followed his wife’s instructions last week and took their savings to buy gold at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar as Turks scooped up bullion worth $7 billion in a just a fortnight.

With memories of a currency crisis which rocked Turkey’s economy only two years ago fresh in his mind, the retired police officer was among those playing it safe as he queued in the city’s sprawling market, where a screen showed the gold price rise by one Turkish lira ($0.1366) in just 10 minutes.

“I think it is the best investment right now so I converted my dollars to buy gold,” the 57-year-old said. “I might withdraw my lira and buy gold with it too, but I am scared to go to the bank right now because of coronavirus.”

The day after Ayhan bought his gold on Aug. 6, the lira hit a historic low and remains skittish, laying bare concerns that Turkey’s reserves have been badly depleted by market interventions, which are showing signs of fizzling out.

Turks traditionally use gold for savings and there may be 5,000 tons of it “under mattresses,” with more added after the recent buying spree, Mehmet Ali Yildirimturk, deputy head of an Istanbul gold shops association, said.

Although bullion has never been more expensive, vendors at the Grand Bazaar said almost no one was selling their gold jewelry. There are only buyers.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Currency touched record lows in three volatile weeks.
  • Local holdings of hard currencies at all-time high.
  • All are buyers at Grand Bazaar, despite expensive gold.

“I’ve been chatting with hundreds of people who are thinking about selling their cars or houses to invest in gold,” vendor Gunay Gunes said.

In the last three weeks, as selling gripped the lira, local holdings of hard assets such as dollars and gold jumped $15 billion to a record of nearly $220 billion.

There is no evidence suggesting people are about to pull savings from banks, and this week the lira has hovered around 7.3 versus the dollar, although it remains among the worst emerging-market performers this year.

Demand has eased since Turks withdrew some $2 billion in hard foreign cash from their banks during a March-May period in which a lockdown was imposed and the lira hit its last low. Analysts say that if Ankara cannot boost confidence in the currency, which has fallen almost 20 percent this year, import-heavy Turkey risks inflation and even a balance of payments crisis that will worsen fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Given foreign investors now have only a small stake in Turkish assets, they say the key for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is convincing Turks to stop turning to the perceived stability of dollars and gold.

The central bank and treasury did not immediately comment on the dollarization trend or any policy response.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said on Wednesday the lira’s competitiveness was more important than exchange rate volatility.

The central bank has effectively borrowed on local dollar liquidity to fuel foreign exchange market interventions, which are meant to stabilize the lira.

Through Turkish state banks, which together are “short” foreign exchange by $12 billion, the central bank has sold over $110 billion since last year. In turn, the bank’s gross FX buffer has fallen by nearly half this year to below $47 billion, its lowest in years.

The central bank has said its reserves naturally fluctuate in stressful periods, and the treasury says the bank intervenes at times to stabilize the currency.

But ratings agencies say Ankara should take decisive steps, such as an interest rate hike, to rebuild reserves and restore confidence. Otherwise, rising current account deficits and possible debt defaults could tarnish a solid reputation for meeting foreign obligations.

“Locals don’t want to keep Turkish lira, they’ve been dollarizing and buying gold. Turks have hardly ever done that,” said Shamaila Khan, New York-based head of EM debt strategy at AllianceBernstein, which manages $600 billion. “That is why you need proactive policies because if you get to that stage where locals are unwilling to keep their money in the bank then you’re heading to a balance of payments crisis. That’s when the alarm bells will start ringing.” 

Some banks imposed fees on withdrawals this week, while the central bank has curbed cheap credit channels it opened to ease the coronavirus fallout. Yet while lira deposits now earn more than the 8.25 percent policy rate, their real return is negative with inflation at 11.8 percent.

Traders say such backdoor tightening needs to reach 11.25 percent to stabilize the lira, which has nearly halved in value since early 2018.

Market expectations have risen for a formal rate hike that economists say would reinforce central bank independence, even while it could slow economic recovery.

Politics may stand in the way.Erdogan, whose popularity has dipped this year, holds the view that high rates cause inflation, and sacked the last central bank governor for disobedience.

He said on Monday he hoped market rates would fall further.

But firms such as System Denim, which imports materials and makes clothes for companies like Zara and Diesel, are feeling the pinch from rising costs. Owner Seref Fayat said he converted his 4 percent euro-denominated loans to lira at 10 percent. “No need to take on additional FX risk,” he said. “I pay a higher rate, but at least I can see ahead.”