From cool highlands to desert oases, a diverse terrain makes Saudi Arabia a fertile land for many crops

From cool highlands to desert oases, a diverse terrain makes Saudi Arabia a fertile land for many crops
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The oasis of Al-Ahsa in KSA's Eastern Province includes more than 2.5 million palm trees extending over an area of more than 85.4 square kilometers. (SPA)
From cool highlands to desert oases, a diverse terrain makes Saudi Arabia a fertile land for many crops
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An alfalfa farm in Riyadh region's Wadi Ad-Dawasir governorate. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 September 2022

From cool highlands to desert oases, a diverse terrain makes Saudi Arabia a fertile land for many crops

From cool highlands to desert oases, a diverse terrain makes Saudi Arabia a fertile land for many crops
  • The Kingdom exports more than 300 varieties of date in an industry worth SR7.5 billion
  • The humid air and fertile soil of Jazan, Al-Baha and Abha are ideal for coffee cultivation

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s most diverse natural landscapes. With 2 million square kilometers of land, the Kingdom is home to crops ranging from palm trees, fruit and olives to coffee beans, rice, lentils and more.

Palm trees — growth, vitality and prosperity

Although climate change poses a threat to agriculture around the world, the variable climate in different regions of the Kingdom makes it ideal for cultivating palm trees.




Blessed with abundant rainfall, Bisha province in the Kingdom's southwest boasts of fully organic palm trees and free of pesticides. (SPA file photo)

Palm trees symbolize the history, heritage, generosity and hospitality of the Saudi nation and its culture, and are also a natural resource for one of the most popular ancient fruits in the world, dates.

According to the International Dates Council, there are 200 million palm trees worldwide, occupying 1.23 hectares of land and producing 9.5 million tons of dates annually in 40 countries.

The Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates announced recently that according to the International Trade Center, the Kingdom in 2021 ranked first internationally among 113 countries in date exports, with a value with SR1.2 billion ($323.4 million).

The 33 million palm trees in the Kingdom represent 27 percent of the world total, with 1.54 million tons of dates produced annually through 13 regions distributed over 123,000 agricultural holdings.

“This distinguished achievement and the great level of excellence that the Kingdom has reached in date exporting is due to the efforts made throughout the years by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture,” Bashar Al-Koraie, CEO of the Zadna dates company, told Arab News. 




A general view taken from an airplane on September 11, 2014 shows cultured farms in northern Saudi Arabia. (AFP file)

The ministry also assisted in promoting the Saudi dates brand by improving the quality of production on farms, following best agricultural practices, and adopting quality standards for exportable dates in factories and packing stations.

Saudi Arabia exports over 300 types of dates to different countries, including the US, Europe, East Asia, the MENA region and Gulf states.

Al-Koraie said that the most popular types of dates in the Kingdom are majdool, khudari, khlas, sukkari, shishi, safawi, sufri, sagee, ajwa, barhi and anbara.

The palm and date sector in Saudi Arabia is worth about SR7.5 billion, which is 12 percent of the total agricultural output and 0.4 percent of the total non-oil gross product.

The three most important administrative regions for date production in the Kingdom are located in the center, east and west of the country, represented in the city of Qassim, Al-Ahsa — known as “The Mother of Palm Trees” — and Madinah.




Qassim region in central Saudi Arabia is one of the largest producers of dates. (SPA)

Dates from Qassim province are exported to more than 74 countries around the globe. The region produces more than 300,000 tons of dates annually. 

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 gave palm trees and dates sector great attention through its development and sustainability, and it has also implemented programs to develop the sector as it has raised the overall rate of the country’s gross domestic product,” Al-Koraie said.

Jouf is home to more than 984,000 palm trees, with the region producing more than 70,000 tons of dates of different varieties annually.

The trees produce a special type of date, known as “Helwat Al-Jouf,” or “the sweet of Al-Jouf.”

This large, dark and extra-sweet fruit retains its quality and can be stored for up to five years. It is usually served in winter and is used in a variety of traditional Arabian desserts.




Palm dates in the oasis of Madain Saleh in AlUla. (Supplied)

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s palm trees and the date sector are now supported internationally as the Kingdom succeeded in registering dates as an “unusual fruit” with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The FAO has also approved Saudi Arabia’s proposal to declare 2027 as the “International Year of Dates.”

MEWA’s palm and date germplasm bank has been listed in Guinness World Records for the largest number of palm varieties, with 127 national types.

To support Saudi palm farmers and help them expand their agricultural businesses, the National Center for Palms and Dates launched a new e-platform, Mozare3, early in August.

The platform aims to be the first and leading supporter in developing and increasing farmers’ production, while contributing to the sustainability of the palm and dates sector.

Coffee beans — the Kingdom’s green gold

Coffee and dates are two iconic products and a famous Saudi combination. Coffee is embedded in the Saudi values of hospitality, music and poetry to such an extent that it is recognized as a core element of Saudi folk heritage.

Saudi Arabia is ranked 50th in the world in terms of the quantity of coffee beans production.

Almohanad Al-Marwai, co-founder and CEO of the Arabian Coffee Institute, told Arab News that the types of coffee beans in the Kingdom are yet to be determined.




A Saudi farmer and his son harvest Khawlani coffee beans at a coffee farm in the southwestern region of Jazan on January 26, 2022. (AFP file)

“The main types are arabica. However, the main varieties are still under DNA studies to determine what the Kingdom produces.”

Coffee crops are found mainly in Jazan, while there are several coffee plantations in Al-Baha and Abha.

The mountainous areas’ humid and cool environment and fertile soil are ideal for coffee cultivation, which depends entirely on seasonal rainwater.

What makes Jazan stand out is the agricultural characteristics of its highlands, which feature terraces for growing coffee.

With 12 years of experience in the coffee industry, Al-Marwai is also a certified Q Arabica grader, Q Processor and an authorized Specialty Coffee Association trainer.

 

Jazan is the only place that uses this coffee farming method in the whole world currently, which plays a major part in the notes and coffee flavor,” Al-Marwai said Jazan’s most popular coffee variety, khawlani, is known as “green gold” and the “pampered tree,” and can be found nestled deep in forests on fertile lands.

“The flavor notes of khawlani usually are more of dried fruit, raisins, dates, spicy notes, cardamom, cinnamon and dark chocolate,” Al-Marwai said.

“The Kingdom produces around 300 tons currently per season. However, it is expected to go up to 3,000 tons in the coming three years, as the government is taking serious action to ensure the quality and the sustainability of coffee production to be self-sufficient,” he added.

“I can see that Al-Baha and Abha have huge potential for cultivating coffee, as they have yielded an amazing coffee crop recently.”

For centuries, the drink has been central to Saudi Arabia’s deep-rooted culture and traditions. Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan announced earlier this year that 2022 will be the “Year of Saudi Coffee.”

According to recent statistics, domestic production of Arabic coffee in Jazan, Al-Baha and Asir has reached 1,810 tons annually, from 2,535 farms and 398,000 coffee trees.

Mango crops flourish in the Kingdom’s southern and western regions 

Jazan is also famous for its mango trees. In 2018, the area was granted a geographical indication — a product name or sign that corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin — for mangoes.

The success of the mango crop in the area is due to its fertile soil and abundant groundwater, which make this tropical tree one of the distinctive fruits of the region.

Through the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program launched by MEWA, the Jazan region has made great strides in developing mango cultivation and expanding production.

The program aims to improve the rural agricultural sector and raise the standard of living of rural families. It also aims to increase production efficiency, improve lifestyle and achieve food security, including supporting mango cultivation.

With over 60 varieties of mangoes, production in the Jazan region witnessed a leap in terms of annual crop quantity from 18,000 tons in 2005 to more than 65,000 tons in 2022, with 19,109 farms and over 1 million mango trees.

The success story of mango cultivation in the area began in 1981, when the Agricultural Research Center, in cooperation with the UN FAO, brought high-quality mango varieties from various countries to Jazan.

Jalan, toumi, kait, balamar, zebda, sensation and sandari are popular varieties, as well as hybrid types from countries including India, Pakistan, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Australia and the US.

In the west of the Kingdom, the coastal city of Umluj also includes 24,000 trees that produce 10,000 tons of the best quality mangoes in the Kingdom annually.

The first mango festival in the region was launched in 2021 under the slogan “Umluj mango worth a try.”

Marwan Al-Juhani, owner of Muhammadiah farm in Umluj, told Arab News that watering is crucial for a successful mango crop.

“To get a good mango crop here in Umluj, we need a developed watering system,” he said.

Al-Juhani said that each mango tree has to be at least four years old before producing fruit, and the older it gets, the better the crop.

His farm holds 400 mango trees and is a popular destination for visitors and tourists, who enjoy walking through the trees, picking mangoes and eating them on site.

The Kingdom’s beloved olive basket on the northern borders

With its fertile soil and moderate climate, the northern Jouf region has become Saudi Arabia’s biggest producer of olive oil and is home to vast orchards holding millions of trees.

Jouf also has the largest olive farm in the world, which produces 10,000 tons annually of the finest olive oil.

The use of intensive planting methods makes Jouf’s olive trees distinctive, with 1,600 trees planted in a one-hectare area. The region is home to more than 18 million olive trees. 

Nasser Al-Hamad, owner of the Million Tree Farm, told Arab News: “I am following a high-density groves system in my farm, a more economical and productive model that also delivered high-quality crops and flavor and saves water.”

The most famous olive trees in Jouf are those more compatible with automated harvesting styles, such as arbequina, arbosana, koroneiki and oliana.

Al-Hamad said that every 10 kg of olives yields one liter of high-quality olive oil.

Many orchards have automated irrigation pump systems that require only one worker.

The city of Sakaka holds an annual olive festival, one of the biggest in the Kingdom, to support local farmers, olive crops and olive oil production. 

Diverse climate equals diverse crops

In light of the global fight against climate change, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Saudi Green Initiative in 2021 with more than SR700 billion of investment in the growth of the green economy.

This announcement has highlighted the efforts and objectives that will gradually lead the Kingdom to rely on clean energy, protecting the environment and making it a better place for future generations.




Workers harvest wheat in a field in the northwestern region of Tabuk on April 7, 2016. (AFP file)

As part of the initiative, 450 million trees will be planted, and 8 million hectares of degraded lands rehabilitated by 2030.

Four million mangrove trees have already been planted to contribute to the restoration of the Kingdom’s mangrove forest shoreline.

Over the last 15 to 20 years, the value of including suitable native species in amenity landscape schemes has become much more apparent. Known to be cultivated in the Mediterranean basin, figs are now also cultivated in Saudi Arabia. With demand rising for local produce, farms across the Kingdom are experimenting to see which fruits can be grown. 

So far, six types of figs are grown in every region, and over 26,000 tons of figs are produced annually. 

A total of $15 billion will be invested in AlUla master plan to create the world’s largest oasis, with over 10 million cubic meters of green and open spaces.

AlUla oasis in the northwest of the Kingdom has an ancient heritage that is not limited to the inscriptions on its mountains or erosion on its rocks, but rather embraces a unique nature reflected in its green oasis and rich farms.

According to the Experience AlUla website, the oasis will play a key role in the region’s agricultural prosperity.

The oasis is home to over 200,000 citrus trees that thrive in the AlUla desert. It is surrounded by a tall canopy of green palm trees shading the citrus trees from the summer sun.

Within 20 kilometers of the oasis, 29 varieties of citrus are grown, including jaffa, baladi, and abo surra oranges, torounge, clementines, mandarins, sweet lemons, limes, grapefruits, pomelos, kumquats, citrons and tangerines.

Mubarak Al-Enizi, who has 250 fruit trees in the region, said: “The citrus of AlUla is distinguished from other countries by its quality, taste and variety, and the reason for this is due to the fertility of the land, the abundance of water and the appropriate climate.”

The art of nurturing citrus fruits in AlUla had been passed down over generations. “The knowledge of how to cultivate citrus trees is inherited from our ancestors,” Al-Enizi said.


Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit
Updated 07 October 2022

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

Al-Sheikh leads Saudi delegation to G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit

JAKARTA: A delegation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, headed by speaker of the Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh, participated at the eighth G20 Parliamentary Speakers’ Summit on Oct. 5, 2022.

The summit, held in Jakarta, was themed “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Duarte Pacheco, and Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia Puan Maharani, were also present.

Widodo delivered the opening speech and welcomed the various parliament speakers, stressing the importance of the group, which seeks to solve all problems facing the world’s population, referring to the significance of communication among all countries to realize economic recovery and create a more prosperous and developed world.

Indonesia is the host of this year's gathering of the world's top 20 economies, coming next after Italy (2021) and Saudi Arabia (2020).

The G20 members are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US, and the European Union. Spain is also invited as a permanent guest.


Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim launches breast cancer awareness campaign 

QASSIM: Al-Qassim Health Cluster launched a breast cancer awareness campaign, “Qassim is Rosary,” on Wednesday as part of international Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. 

The Qassim Health Assembly said that more than 180 of its health centers and facilities have been designated to conduct initial examinations for the early detection of breast cancer.

The campaign, targeting women aged between 18-60, aims to educate the community about the dangers and causes of breast cancer, as well as methods of prevention and early detection. 

It also encourages women to book mammogram appointments at clinics available in the region. 

The event also featured stories of women who recovered from breast cancer as well as folkloric performances.

The awareness campaign will be held at women’s government facilities, universities and colleges, and parks.


Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday
Updated 06 October 2022

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

Global Health Exhibition starts in Riyadh Sunday

RIYADH: Thousands of medical professionals and industry leaders are heading to Riyadh for this year’s Global Health Exhibition.

The conference is being held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center from Sunday to Tuesday under the patronage of Minister of Health Fahad Al-Jalajel. 

It is expected to attract more than 10,000 specialists and 250 companies from 30 countries.

The exhibition provides opportunities for visitors to meet fellow professionals and policymakers, and coincides with large investments by Saudi Arabia into healthcare under its Vision 2030 reform plan.

The forum will host conferences on public health, integrated care, and the future of medical laboratories and radiology.

The event will also launch the Leaders Forum, which will bring healthcare leaders and government officials together to discuss digital transformation and efficiency.

The GHE attracted thousands of healthcare professionals and companies in 2018 to 2019 and virtually in 2020 to 2021.


Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha to double Shadawi coffee production
  • Over 1,000 new jobs, tourism boost expected, says agriculture official
  • Farmers provided funding, irrigation equipment and seedlings

Al-Baha plans to double its production of its famous Shadawi coffee beans, a move that would create jobs and income for the region, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Baha is home to more than 200 farms that have over 22,000 trees growing beans of the highest quality, SPA reported.

There is room for growth, with an overall area of 1.6 million square meters available that has the capacity for 300,000 trees.

Fahd bin Muftah Al-Zahrani, director of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in the region, said: “Coffee production will increase by 100 percent. It will also create 1,000 new jobs. It will have a business, training, and exhibition center, making the region a distinct agricultural tourism destination.”

Al-Zahrani said the mountainous terrain requires careful cultivation to allow the trees to flourish.

The ministry has started providing farmers with access to water sources, and tanks for storage with the capacity ranging from 60 to 240 tons.

Farmers have also been supported with modern irrigation equipment and seedlings. This initiative has so far benefitted 122 farmers.

In addition, the ministry is providing financial support for small farmers through its Rural Program, which will help them produce, manufacture and market the coffee beans.


Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000
Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000

Saudi Red Crescent Authority courses benefit 113,000

 

RIYADH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority has successfully organized 918 training courses and awareness lectures across the Kingdom, benefitting more than 113,000 people this year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

On the occasion of World Teacher’s Day, Abdulaziz Al-Suwaine, the authority’s official spokesperson, said: “The authority is keen to spread the culture of first aid in educational institutions and introduce people to ways to deal with cases of sickness that require urgent intervention before the arrival of the emergency teams.

“This aims to save more lives and alleviate suffering, which would strengthen the health safety means in communities and educational facilities. Therefore, the authority held numerous awareness-raising training courses and lectures in these institutions.”

Of the 214 training courses organized at educational institutions, the Qassim region had the highest share with 52. Meanwhile, the Eastern region received 704 awareness lectures.

“The authority has previously launched several awareness-raising initiatives. The most significant of these initiatives was ‘A Safe School,’ which aims at training all those working within the educational system, be it teachers, administrative employees or students, to introduce them to the basics of first aid. The initiative included the provision of a set of training courses and lectures that suit different age groups,” Al-Suwaine said.