Coffee beans festival turns Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region into a cultural hub

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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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The festival also promotes all manner of local handicrafts and produce.
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)
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Updated 08 February 2020

Coffee beans festival turns Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region into a cultural hub

  • Nearly 200 Saudi farmers displayed a variety of coffee products at the annual event
  • A cinema played various movies about the importance of local coffee to Jazan’s heritage

JAZAN: For the seventh year in a row, a bustling crowd of farmers and families gathered in Al-Dayer governorate, in the eastern part of the mountainous Jazan region of Saudi Arabia, to participate in the Coffee Beans Festival, which concluded on Tuesday.

For six days, about 200 farmers — nearly three times the size of previous festivals — displayed a variety of coffee products to visitors eager to try out various coffee beans, aromas and tastes from the surrounding areas.

Although Jazan continues to be known for its most famous Khawlani coffee bean, the increase in visitors, farmers and leisure activities at this year’s festival marked a palpable shift in a region that is increasingly popular for its natural landscape, heritage and economic opportunities.

The event offered an enhanced program for visitors, in the form of a cinema playing films about the importance of coffee, a line of stalls offering home cooked dishes by women from the area, highlights from a local museum that reveal Jazan’s rich history, and numerous boutiques selling local honey, perfumes, garments and jewelry, with the latter incorporating the local coffee bean.

Hussain Hadi Al-Malki, an award-winning coffee farmer and owner of Mefraz, a local coffee brand, told Arab News that this year’s festival was significantly larger than that of 2019.




An elderly vendor beckons visitors to his booth at the Jazan Coffee Beans Festival. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)

“We now have more farmers,” said Al-Malki. “Private businesses have started to invest in coffee. The number of visitors is increasing yearly.”

Al-Malki, who hails from Al-Dayer governorate, added: “Some young farmers are utilizing modern technology in displaying and promoting their coffee.

“They are also now using a special type of packing materials to preserve their products and keep its attractive smell for as long a time as possible.”

The festival featured more than five new coffee brand names, all created by young farmers from Jazan.

“This year nearly 100 women participated in the festival, around 70 percent more than previous years,” said Mohammad Jibran Al-Maliki, chairman of the tourism committee in Al-Salma.

Speaking to Arab News, Suada Al-Aleely, a vendor selling homemade food, pointed to the importance of the festival as a social gathering place for families and friends. “We don’t only sell home-produced dolma and traditional dishes like aseeda, but also meet up friends and spend a good period of time together,” she said.

 

Echoing that view, Al-Malki said the production of coffee beans had transformed both the economy and the society of Jazan.

“The festival has attracted many people other than coffee farmers,” he said. “Families can be seen here displaying and selling their homemade food and people interested in old items are there to show their collectibles. “In the long run this will give a push forward to the region’s economy by attracting more and more tourists.”

Coffee apart, Jazan is the site of a number of mega projects as Saudi Arabia pours billions of dollars into the region’s infrastructure. Saudi Aramco is currently completing the Jazan Refinery and Terminal, a major oil and gas project in the region. Associated terminal facilities are located on the Red Sea.

The government of Jazan is also keen to develop the local tourism industry. In fact, Al-Dayer has already begun to receive tourists from various regions of the world.

On the third day of the Coffee Beans Festival, Mefraz’s booth received 10 non-Arab tourists, according to Al-Malki.

“Four people came from the US and the others are Europeans,” he told Arab News.

“We have prepared programs for the visitors, such as folk dances and live performances, to introduce them to our culture.”

Ahmed Jubran, an expert farmer and owner of a model farm, said Jazan is on course to produce up to 336 tons of coffee beans this year, compared with last year’s 119 tons.

He said Al-Dayer governorate had 65 percent of this, adding that he expected production to double next year.

Meanwhile, farmers in the region have been told by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture that a coffee factory, lab and research center are in the pipeline. “We are planning to be self-sufficient by 2040,” said Jubran. “We have now some 158,000 trees, and by 2030 we will have a million trees that can give us some 5,000 tons.




Jazan’s famous Khawlani coffee beans have changed the economic landscape of the region. (AN photo by Mohammed Albaijan)

“By 2050 we plan to start exporting.” The future may come sooner than expected. Jubran said the government has allocated SR12 billion ($3.2 billion) for rural development programs that would help them achieve their targets ahead of time.

The Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program, meanwhile, aims to increase production, processing and marketing of fruit, fish, livestock, coffee and cultivation of rain-fed crops. The program will not only boost investment in Jazan’s agriculture but also diversify the sector, improve small farmers’ incomes, create job opportunities and contribute to food security and sustainable development.

As the Coffee Beans Festival concluded, the future looked more promising than ever.

“The future of farming coffee in Jazan is prosperous at all levels,” Prince Badr bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture, said via Twitter. “Culturally, planting coffee beans is considered an intangible heritage, inherited for hundreds of years.

“On the economic level, it is a promising investment and development sector. I am really proud of the strong determination of the farmers and the passion of the people of Al-Dayer.”


It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.