Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia
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Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia
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Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

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.

 


Saudi Arabia records 3 COVID-19 deaths, 55 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 3 COVID-19 deaths, 55 new cases
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia records 3 COVID-19 deaths, 55 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 3 COVID-19 deaths, 55 new cases
  • The health ministry says 42 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours
  • Tabuk Municipality carried out more than 12,000 inspection tours during the past week

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed three new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,785.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 55 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,423 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 64 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 23, followed by Jeddah with eight, Makkah recorded three, and Madinah, Khobar, Yanbu and Rumah recorded two cases each.
The health ministry also announced that 42 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,418.


Over 45.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 21.3 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Saudi municipalities have also ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures.
The municipality of Tabuk carried out more than 12,000 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the past week. Authorities recorded several violations and closed a number of businesses for not adhering to the precautionary measures.
Officials have also called on the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 245 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.98 million.


Al-Murabba welcomes visitors with music, food and more for Riyadh Season

Al-Murabba welcomes visitors with music, food and more for Riyadh Season
Updated 27 October 2021

Al-Murabba welcomes visitors with music, food and more for Riyadh Season

Al-Murabba welcomes visitors with music, food and more for Riyadh Season
  • Al-Murabba offers a luxurious dining experience with a range of famous international eateries — Italian, Japanese, Argentinian, French and others
  • Other areas in the zone boast sweet shops — like that of Pierre Hermé — light-strewn night gardens, concept stores, art shops and traditional clothing stores

RIYADH: Al-Murabba, one of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones, is welcoming visitors this week as part of the city’s festivities.

Visitors are offered a taste of authentic Saudi hospitality as they are greeted with Arabic coffee, incense, and music at the main entrance.

The zone offers a luxurious experience, reflecting the great diversity of culinary cultures around the world with a range of famous international eateries — Italian, Japanese, Argentinian, French and others. Reservation can be made through The Chefz application.

In addition to gastronomic experiences, visitors can enjoy a host of musical and artistic performances.

Musician Re’aab Bukhari told Arab News that he plays Saudi music for famous local singers at the zone.

“I’m here with my crew to participate for Riyadh Season in Al-Murabba zone. I came to the first Riyadh Season a couple of years ago, and the level of organization I’ve witnessed is beyond professional,” he said.

Other areas in the zone boast sweet shops — like that of Pierre Hermé, famous French pastry chef — light-strewn night gardens, concept stores, art shops and traditional clothing stores featuring the work of local designers.

Visitors eager to taste Japanese cuisine can book at restaurant Bar Masa, featuring authentic creations by Chef Masa Takayama, known for his three-star Michelin restaurant in Manhattan, New York City.

Charming Parisian-style restaurant Oplaisir welcomes its diners with music and a menu rich with unique dishes. The Petit Trois, another famous, award-winning French restaurant, is also available in Al-Murabba.

Dareen Rajeh, a senior specialist at Takamol Holding who came to Al-Murabba for the festivities, shared with Arab News her feelings on Riyadh Season.

“Part of me can’t believe it, and the other part is grateful because we never expected to return to normal so quickly, especially as everything we used to read would say that life will never go back to normal. But, in a record time, we are back,” she said.

Having experienced Riyadh Season in the past, Rajeh was excited to relive the festival again.

“I’m also excited to visit Winter Wonderland this year, as the winter is almost near. I definitely want to experience the Crystal Maze as well,” she added.


Saudi Arabia summons Lebanese envoy over ‘offensive’ comments made by information minister

Saudi Arabia summons Lebanese envoy over ‘offensive’ comments made by information minister
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia summons Lebanese envoy over ‘offensive’ comments made by information minister

Saudi Arabia summons Lebanese envoy over ‘offensive’ comments made by information minister
  • The ministry said the statements showed a clear bias toward the Houthis who threaten regional stability
  • UAE condemned Kordahi's “disgraceful and biased statements” and summoned the Lebanese ambassador

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia summoned the Lebanese ambassador to the Kingdom on Wednesday over “offensive” comments made by Lebanon’s information minister.

The foreign ministry expressed its disappointment at comments made by Lebanon's Information Minister George Kordahi regarding the Arab coalition in Yemen.

It said it was disappointed by the “insults contained in those statements directed at the Kingdom and countries part of the Arab coalition.”

The ministry said that the statements showed a clear bias toward the Houthis who threaten security and stability in the region.

The “statements contradict the simplest political norms and are inconsistent with the historic relations between the two brotherly peoples,” the ministry added.

Kordahi sparked controversy on Tuesday when a video of him referring to the Houthis as defending themselves emerged online. He also called the war in Yemen “futile.”

The comments were made before he took up his current position.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the interview was recorded more than a month before his cabinet was formed and reflected a personal opinion that had nothing to do with government.

The Houthis continue to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom and Yemen almost daily.

The UAE condemned the “disgraceful and biased statements” made by Kordahi and summoned the Lebanese ambassador to the country in protest.

The Emirati foreign ministry said it informed the ambassador of its protest and denunciation of the statements, saying they “reflect Lebanon’s growing distance from its Arab brotherly countries.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the comments while Bahrain summoned the Lebanese envoy to protest against the statements.

Kuwait also summoned Lebanon's charge d’affaires and the Yemeni foreign ministry called on Beirut to clarify its position on the comments, according to a statement issued by its embassy in Beirut.


Saudi space sector takes another giant leap with membership of global body

Saudi space sector takes another giant leap with membership of global body
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi space sector takes another giant leap with membership of global body

Saudi space sector takes another giant leap with membership of global body
  • The Saudi Space Commission has joined the International Astronautical Federation ‘to enhance the Kingdom’s stature globally’ in the sector

JEDDAH: In a move that experts said will help to further advance the space sector in the Kingdom, the Saudi Space Commission has joined the International Astronautical Federation.

The federation, a leading space organization founded in 1951 to promote discussions between scientists worldwide and encourage cooperation in space, announced the Saudi membership on Monday.

Mohammed Al-Tamimi, CEO of the commission, said that the space industry is one of the sectors targeted for development by Vision 2030 with the aim of the Kingdom becoming a world leader in the field. He added that the commission is working to enhance the sector through the scientific and professional development of the skills required in the field, and by providing the necessary support to promote research and development in space technologies.

“We are pleased today to join the International Space Federation to enhance the Kingdom’s stature globally and to consolidate its leading role in the development of the space economy internationally,” Al-Tamimi said.

FASTFACTS

• The announcement comes as part of the efforts to enhance the Kingdom’s role in the space sector in the region and internationally, and to stimulate growth and inspire future generations, authorities said.

• They added that membership of the federation represents a new chapter for cooperation with the international community to establish and develop principles and frameworks that will enhance international laws and maximize the benefits obtained from the space sector and its technologies.

The announcement comes as part of the efforts to enhance the Kingdom’s role in the space sector in the region and internationally, and to stimulate growth and inspire future generations, authorities said. They added that membership of the federation represents a new chapter for cooperation with the international community to establish and develop principles and frameworks that will enhance international laws and maximize the benefits obtained from the space sector and its technologies.

The Saudi Space Commission was established by royal decree in late 2018 to stimulate space-related research and industrial activities. In 2020, Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first Saudi, Arab and Muslim astronaut, said the Kingdom was planning an SR8 billion ($2.1 billion) investment in the nation’s space program as part of Vision 2030.

“In the time we live now, space is becoming a fundamental sector of the global economy, touching every aspect of our lives on Earth,” he said. “Space business and the space economy are expected to grow into the trillions of riyals as we go forward.

“We believe there are a lot of opportunities that exist in the space sector and we, in Saudi Arabia, intend to tap these opportunities at all levels.”

The Kingdom aspires to being a leading global player in the space industry while advancing the prospects for future generations, the prince added.


Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to launch fourth Tanween creativity season

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to launch fourth Tanween creativity season
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to launch fourth Tanween creativity season

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra to launch fourth Tanween creativity season
  • Tanween 2021 empowers the creative industries through exploring the innovative use of tools

JEDDAH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, known as Ithra, will launch the fourth Tanween creativity season with a plethora of cultural events for curious minds.

Held under the theme “Tools: Crafting Creativity,” the event features high-profile speakers and a series of targeted workshops and masterclasses until Nov. 13, and is designed to celebrate, explore and inspire the creative process. 

Underscoring Ithra’s goal of supporting and developing the region’s creative industries, a key highlight will be the unveiling of one of the most comprehensive studies mapping the cultural and creative landscape of the Middle East and North Africa, including rare insights into the Saudi cultural pulse.

“Since its inception, Ithra has positively disrupted the scene in culture, art, knowledge, creativity and community. Through the annual creativity season, Tanween, a cultural catalyst and global gateway, Ithra has succeeded in creating an unprecedented ecosystem that embodies its five pillars, while offering unique experiences to the public and to creative professionals,” said Ashraf Fagih, head of programs at Ithra.

Miznah Alzamil, head of innovation and creativity at Ithra, explained that like previous editions, titled “Disruption,” “Play,” and “The New Next,” this edition of Tanween will explore an aspect of the creative process and tap into how cultural and creative industries continue to innovate and steer the future of the creative economy — highlighting the tools at their disposal. 

“Tanween 2021 empowers the creative industries through exploring the innovative use of tools and identifying new opportunities presented by adopting and developing new toolsets,” she said. 

“From the first stone hammer to modern-day technology, tools enable our creativity to shape our world. From hand and head tools to digital and physical tools, and abstract and real toolsets, Tanween 2021 explores the role tools have in our creative process and industries, and shaping our creativity for the future.”

From its launch in 2018, Tanween has connected change-making creatives and innovators with global subject matter experts in an inspiration-fueled environment to nurture creative potential, share ideas and redefine what creativity means in a changing world. It offers a platform for them to connect with curious learners, aspiring creatives, and professionals to unlock creative potential across all levels and industries.  

This year’s headline speakers include former Adidas Senior Design Director Chris Law, founding director of the Khatt Foundation Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares, international contemporary artist and researcher Sougwen Chung, and Arthur Mamou-Mani, founder of the award-winning Mamou-Mani Architecture practice.