Saudi Arabia plays a stabilizing role in the region, says Hungarian FM

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Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó spoke to Arab News on Wednesday following fruitful meetings with key Saudi officials. (AN photo)
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Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó spoke to Arab News on Wednesday following fruitful meetings with key Saudi officials. (AN photo)
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Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó spoke to Arab News on Wednesday following fruitful meetings with key Saudi officials. (AN photo)
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Updated 22 October 2020

Saudi Arabia plays a stabilizing role in the region, says Hungarian FM

  • $700 million credit line established to serve Hungarian-Saudi business-to-business cooperation

RIYADH: Hungary can play a key role in Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 development strategy because its direction plays to Hungary’s strengths, the country’s foreign minister told Arab News on Wednesday.
Péter Szijjártó was speaking after what he described as fruitful meetings with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, and Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih.
“We understand that in the framework of Vision 2030, huge investments and infrastructural developments will be implemented in areas where the Hungarian economy and Hungarian companies are really strong,” Szijjártósaid.
These include water management, agriculture, food processing, electronics and housing, he said. “We will help our Hungarian companies to be able to appear in your market and get some market share.”
Szijjártó said projects would be partially funded through a $700 million credit line established at Hungary Exim, the state-owned export credit agency, which will exclusively serve business-to-business cooperationbetween the two countries.

We understand that in the framework of Vision 2030, huge investments and infrastructural developments will be implemented in areas where the Hungarian economy and Hungarian companies are really strong.

Péter Szijjártó

After his ministerial meetings in Riyadh, Szijjártó said they would hold the next session of the Joint Economic Commission, with high-ranking partners, in Budapest in December.  
“We agreed to revitalize the Hungarian/Saudi Business Council and we agreed that we finalized the text of the agreement on mutually productive investments very soon, in December.”
This package would provide “the financial, the political and the legal reassurance for Hungarian companies to invest and participate here in Saudi Arabia, in the market generally, and in the framework of Vision 2030,” he said.
Szijjártó said Saudi Arabia and Hungary were “on the same page when it comes to major dilemmas and global political issues, when it comes to the issue of the fight against terror, when it comes to the issue of the fight against interfering in the domestic issues of other countries, when it comes to cooperation based on mutual respect instead of lecturing each other.
“We are on the same page when it comes to our position against illegal migration, and we are on the same page when it comes to the fight against extremism of any origin.”
It was clear that Saudi Arabia was on a path of change, Szijjártó said. “You have started to implement a very successful economic policy which diversifies your national economy, and which diversifies the country itself.
“These infrastructural developments are of crucial importance … these investments ensure jobs for the people, they ensure revenues for companies, and ensure the long-term sustainable development of the country.

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“It’s also obvious that you are playing a more important role in the international community. It’s easy to recognize that here in the Middle East, you are playing a stabilizing role. You became an even more self-confident nation than before.
“And we support this role of yours because we understand that stabilizing forces are really necessary in this part of the world. And what happens here in the Middle East immediately has a direct, tangible impact on central Europe. So, the more stable and secure the situation here, the better for central Europe.”
Szijjártó said Hungary’s economy was changing too. With a population of only 10 million, it needed to extend its reach, he said. “A strategy only for the internal market doesn’t really make sense.”  
More Hungarian companies had become strong enough to be competitive in world markets, to be able to invest in in other countries and to localize some of their activities abroad, he said. “This is now a very important new dimension of our national economy.”
Saudi Arabia was a welcoming environment in which opportunities for Hungarian companies could be found, the minister said. “That’s why we will help our companies to come to the Saudi market, localize part of their production, increase market share, and invest.
“We need partners with whom we can cooperate easily on a fair basis, based on mutual respect,” he said.  “We understand we are coming from two totally different historic and cultural backgrounds, which we respect a lot. Based on that mutual respect, we can work together successfully.”




Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó spoke to Arab News on Wednesday following fruitful meetings with key Saudi officials. (AN photo)


Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia provides an environment conducive to the shrub’s growth, says expert

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

FASTFACTS

• The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops.

• Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.