TAIF: Saudi agricultural production has significantly developed in both quantity and quality, with some crops reaching high levels of self-sufficiency, an official at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has claimed.
The director general of the General Department of Agricultural Associations and Marketing at the ministry, Suleiman Saleh Al-Jutaili, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s ability to preserve food security and the agricultural supply chain, and cooperation between governmental authorities, contributed to more produce, especially fruits and vegetables.
“The marketing element is considered the biggest challenge in the agricultural sector internationally and in the Kingdom,” he said, adding: “Several meetings have been held, agreements signed and studies conducted, leading to the launch of a number of (smartphone) applications and linking them to marketing services’ centers and farmers directly.”
These applications are popular with citizens, especially amid the pandemic, where online purchasing has shot up.
He said that agricultural festivals opened new marketing windows of direct sales, more partnership with the private sector, a reduction in losses, and instilling the concept of marketing services centers.
Small farmers and direct sales have been supported, Al-Jutaili said, and an agreement with LuLu Hypermarket was signed in addition to other major markets.
“Such a step will offer seasonal agricultural products such as mangoes, bananas and papayas from Jazan, grapes from Qassim, in addition to figs, pomegranates and citrus fruits in season across the Kingdom,” he added.
Marketing campaigns for agricultural products have been launched to ensure continuity, support the economy and find practical and viable solutions that support the sale of products of small farms, to improve farmers’ income and lifestyle.
One such campaign is “It is the season,” which was recently launched during a meeting held with all the central markets in the Kingdom. The campaign aims to support local produce and ensure the increase of agricultural production and farmers’ revenues.
“The Saudi Agricultural Development Fund has been supported to establish marketing service centers that receive, sort and package products from farmers,” he said.
Many Saudis have been supportive of these initiatives, buying their seasonal vegetables and fruits directly from local farms, for their high nutritional values and the economic feasibility.
Nutritionist Dr. Viviane Mohammed Wehbe told Arab News that seasonal vegetables and fruits have several benefits that encourage consumers to eat and buy them from farms instead of supermarkets or grocery stores.
“Fruits and vegetables are most nutritious when harvested at their peak maturity and eaten in season, because they provide the body with vitamins, minerals and basic nutrients and help reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer,” she said.
She added: “Buying fruits directly from farms has also an economic advantage. When eaten in season and from their direct sources, fruits cost less and consumers are reassured as they eat fresh products, with no added chemicals to keep them in stores for long periods.”
Wehbe said that the methods of storing and transporting fruits and vegetables and the preservatives added to them push consumers to buy the products directly from the farms.
Mashbab Al-Thaqfi, owner of a farm in the south of Taif, said that the expansion of agriculture is a positive thing whenever the opportunity arises in a rainy season.
“Most agricultural areas depend primarily on rain. If rainwater is not sufficient, some farmers resort to bringing in well water from other areas to make up for the deficit and save their summer fruit season,” he told Arab News.
Al-Thaqfi said most farmers often renew their farms by getting a variety of fertilizers to ensure a good soil for the organic production of fresh vegetables and fruits that visitors crave after an overdose of frozen and dried fruits.
Most of those farms are directly supervised by their owners, he said, with workers trained in agriculture, watering, harvesting and selling on touristic highways, which many visitors consider reliable and credible because the produce comes from farms in nearby areas.
“Visitors thus purchase big quantities of vegetables without having to worry about the sources of water used to water them, having seen similar cases of farms run by violating workers that use wastewater,” Al-Thaqfi added.
Fresh vegetables are produced by farms year-round and sold at reasonable prices. These farms rely on seasonal fruits such as barbary figs, prunes, pomegranates, quince, almonds and plums.
The fruits are harvested at different periods and are often sought by summer vacationers from all around the Kingdom, giving the produce great economic value.