Shift to a plant-based diet can lead to more sustainable Saudi food system

Shift to a plant-based diet can lead to more sustainable Saudi food system

In order to optimize Saudi Arabia's food systems, both the public and private sectors must work together. (SPA)
In order to optimize Saudi Arabia's food systems, both the public and private sectors must work together. (SPA)
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In the spirit of Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s road map for economic diversification, global engagement and enhanced quality of life, the Saudi public and private sectors have been working together for the past several years to promote the benefits of plant-based foods and increase the sustainability of food systems.

Given the accelerating effects and implications of climate change, and global efforts to prevent further environmental degradation, efforts need to be made to ensure the foods people choose for their diets have a low impact on the environment and help guarantee the health and well-being of the current and future generations. Against this backdrop, plant-based diets are emerging as an important and viable option for a more sustainable future.

The global plant-based food industry also represents a key economic opportunity, with an estimated market value of $11.3 billion in 2023, which is projected to increase to $35.9 billion by 2033, a compounded annual growth rate of 12.2 percent. This predicted trajectory suggests a significant ongoing shift in consumer preferences and dietary habits, reflecting a deeper societal shift toward more health-conscious and sustainable living.

That said, the plant-based food industry does have its share of challenges and so it must step up to the plate. The most notable challenges include replicating the complex flavors of some types of food, ensuring regulatory compliance, managing the intricacies of product labeling, scaling production, and maintaining competitive pricing compared with traditional products.

As the effects of climate change continue to affect every country and pose challenges to agriculture, water supplies and ecosystems, the best way for Saudi Arabia to mitigate them is to promote and implement a shift toward a plant-based diet. By adopting and promoting modern agricultural techniques, Saudi government agencies and enterprises can help establish stable plant-based food supplies and a more sustainable future for the nation.

A study conducted a few years ago in the Kingdom of public opinion on the perceived attributes that best characterize a sustainable diet revealed that on a scale of 1 to 5, a diet rich in vegetables that are organically produced earned a high rating of 3.94. This bodes well for the demand for plant-based food options, which often utilize organic produce.

By adopting and promoting modern agricultural techniques, Saudi government agencies and enterprises can help establish stable plant-based food supplies and a more sustainable future for the nation.

Majed Al-Qatari

Worldwide, a shift toward a plant-based diet would help improve sustainability by reducing carbon footprints and emissions of greenhouse gases. Traditional livestock agriculture is blamed for 15 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. It uses 70 percent of all land used for agriculture, which must be cleared in preparation for rearing livestock, thereby resulting in deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

The good news from both data and anecdotal evidence is that demand for organic products is increasing in Saudi Arabia, in tandem with a palpable shift in consumer tastes toward plant-based foods. If the trend continues, it would be a dream come true for the restaurants and cafes in Saudi Arabia that have been adding plant-based and organic items to their menus.

As demand for products compatible with a plant-based diet grows, so will the number of stores serving that demand, which in turn will attract investors to businesses that supply those stores. This will also help to promote more sustainable farming practices.

Organic farming techniques, as previously noted, help to conserve biodiversity and soil fertility, while preventing soil erosion and degradation. Increased consumption of organically produced foods can also help to improve public health and ensure the sustainable utilization of natural resources.

In addition, plant-based diets can improve sustainability by reducing food waste compared with animal-based diets, resulting in lower carbon emissions during the production and disposal of food.

The Kingdom therefore advocates the sustainable production and consumption of food, taking into account population growth, environmental concerns, and diversification of the national economy.

The participation of the private sector in these efforts will include corporate sustainability schemes, the utilization of innovation and technology, and cooperation with academia and civil society organizations.

As Nada Alturki explains in her report on this page: “Just a few short years ago, visitors to Saudi Arabia could never have imagined feasting on a plate of vegan tuna nigiri or a meatless shawarma. Thanks to new investments in agricultural technologies, these plant-based alternatives are now firmly on the menu.”

This signifies the evolution of consumer choices and the influence of sustainable ways of doing business. Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this trend by opening restaurants and cafes focused on plant-based diets around the country.

Optimization of sustainable food systems in Saudi Arabia will be best achieved through the combined contributions of both private and public sectors. Through food policy adjustment, innovation, and consumer awareness, Saudi Arabia can speed up its adoption of a future sustainable food system.

These sustainable food systems will see the Kingdom accelerating its food production, providing a steady supply to restaurants and cafes, lowering the rate of food imports, and majorly enhancing organic food consumption in homes, cafes, and restaurants in the country.

Majed Al-Qatari is a sustainability leader, ecological engineer and UN Youth Ambassador with experience in advancing ESG and sustainability goals in corporate businesses, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing
Updated 4 min 40 sec ago
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Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

Saudi Monsha’at and Social Development Bank ink deal to boost SME financing

RIYADH: Saudi small and medium enterprises are set to receive a finance boost thanks to a new deal signed by the Kingdom’s Social Development Bank. 

The cooperation agreement, inked with the country’s SME general authority, also known as Monsha’at, will see the authority joining the bank’s Entrepreneurs Program, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

This collaboration aims to provide the necessary financing solutions and facilities for the growth of SME projects and the expansion of their businesses. 

The program is a financing product aimed at supporting the assets and operating costs of new business entities in the Kingdom. 

This initiative aligns with Monsha’at’s objective to bolster the growth and competitiveness of SMEs by collaborating with strategic partners from various sectors, both locally and globally. The goal is to create an enabling environment and foster a leading society.  

Furthermore, it resonates with the bank’s vision to be pioneers in empowering social development tools and enhancing the financial independence of individuals, families, and entities toward a vibrant and productive society. 


Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index
Updated 18 min 43 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

Saudi Arabia rises 9 spots in WEF’s global tourism index

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has climbed nine spots to rank 41 on a global tourism index – marking the Gulf region’s largest improvement – thanks to its strengthening infrastructure, corporate presence, and major business centers. 

According to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Development Index report, Saudi Arabia has recorded the most significant improvement in the Middle East and North Africa region since 2019. 

The WEF’s TTDI, covering 119 economies, measures the set of factors and policies enabling the sustainable and resilient development of the tourism and travel sector, which, in turn, contributes to a country’s development. 

The report highlighted that the tourism sector in high-income economies within the region, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council, benefited from several factors. These included high-quality infrastructure, such as major aviation hubs and leading airlines, the presence of large corporations and significant business centers driving travel activities, and a favorable business environment. 

“In part, these efforts are reflected in broad increases in government T&T spending as a share of budgets, loosened visa requirements, improvements in the establishment and promotion of cultural resources, and the highest regional average for T&T capital spending per employee in the index,” the report added. 

In the index, the UAE stands out as the top performer in the region overall and the Middle East subregion, ranking 18th. Meanwhile, Egypt, with a ranking of 61st, stands out as the top scorer in the North Africa subregion, the report revealed. 

The US, Spain, and Japan hold the top three positions in the index with no change in ranking from 2019. Meanwhile, France and Australia have climbed two ranks each from 2019 to secure the fourth and fifth positions. Germany and the UK also feature in the top 10 but with a minor fall in their positions to sixth and seventh in 2024 compared to 2019. China, Italy, and Switzerland hold the remaining three positions in the top 10. 

The WEF findings also pointed out that travel and tourism activities in developing economies in the region often face challenges, including less attractive business environments, safety and security concerns, and gaps in the necessary transport and tourism infrastructure. 

Furthermore, many countries in the region have implemented policies and invested substantial resources to develop the tourism and travel sector. This effort aims to diversify their economies and reduce dependency on the oil and gas industry, according to the report. 

Saudi Arabia is set to unveil a new tourism strategy later this year, leveraging artificial intelligence and seamless technology, Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum. 

She added that the plan aims to enhance the Kingdom’s cultural, historical, and hospitality assets. 

In 2023, Saudi Arabia’s travel sector surpassed expectations, prompting a revision of its Vision 2030 targets from 100 million to 150 million visits by 2030.  

Additionally, the Kingdom has introduced regulatory changes, such as the “Visiting Investor” visa and the expansion of the GCC unified visa service, to attract more international visitors and investors.  

Major projects like NEOM, Riyadh Air, and the Red Sea Project are central to these efforts, aiming to make tourism a significant revenue source by 2030. 

The WEF also noted that the tourism and travel sector in the region would benefit from reducing travel and trade restrictions and making significant investments in environmental sustainability to support future improvements in natural resources.  

However, it warned that the recent escalation of regional conflicts and the resultant increase in safety and security concerns pose a major external risk to future tourism development. 


UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
Updated 20 min 57 sec ago
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UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
  • The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration

ABU DHABI: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will make a two-day state visit to South Korea on May 28 at the invitation of President Yoon Suk Yeol, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration across various sectors including trade, investment, energy and technology.

They will also address regional and international developments of common interest.

“The meeting comes within the framework of strategic partnership between the UAE and South Korea in line with their vision to achieve a better and more prosperous future for the countries,” the WAM statement said.


ICAO summit in Riyadh shows recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in aviation sector: GACA president

ICAO summit in Riyadh shows recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in aviation sector: GACA president
Updated 27 min 44 sec ago
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ICAO summit in Riyadh shows recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in aviation sector: GACA president

ICAO summit in Riyadh shows recognition of Saudi Arabia’s role in aviation sector: GACA president

RIYADH: The decision of the International Civil Aviation Organization to host its Facilitation Global Summit in Riyadh underscores Saudi Arabia’s leading position in the sector, an official said. 

Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of the Kingdom’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, noted that Riyadh’s selection to host the summit also recognizes the Kingdom’s outstanding contributions to the international civil aviation community.

The ICAO Facilitation 2024 Global Summit was launched in Riyadh on May 21, in conjunction with the Future Aviation Forum being held in the Saudi capital. 

During the event’s opening speech, Al-Duailej highlighted that the summit is an opportunity to share various initiatives GACA has implemented in the Kingdom to elevate the passenger experience. 

The gathering includes 30 speakers and more than 500 aviation experts and specialists who will discuss the industry’s opportunities and challenges. 

The GACA president further noted that the authority has implemented a monitoring and inspection program to ensure that Saudi international airports comply with the standards and recommendations outlined in ICAO’s Annex 9 directives. 

“Annex 9 — Facilitation is based on 10 articles of the Chicago Convention which require that the civil aviation community comply with laws governing the inspection of aircraft, cargo and passengers by authorities concerned with customs, immigration, agriculture and public health,” according to the ICAO website. 

It added: “Under the Convention, States are obligated to adopt standards and expedite the necessary formalities in order to minimize operational delays.” 

Al-Duailej pointed out that Saudi Arabia is cooperating with international aviation authorities and continuing its investments in advanced safety technologies to provide passengers transiting the Kingdom’s airports with a smooth travel experience. 

For his part, Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of ICAO, said that the summit will empower aviation mechanisms globally. 

Speaking to Arab News on May 21, Sciacchitano said that Saudi Arabia is a “model” for sustainable practices in the aviation sector, as the Kingdom’s growth in the industry aligns with global standards. 

He also predicted that global air traffic will reach 11.5 billion by 2050, up from the current 4.6 billion. 

Sciacchitano added that the technological revolution will accelerate the aviation sector’s growth, allowing the world to accommodate more airplanes in the sky and more space on the ground. 


Pakistan forms inquiry committee to probe mob attacks in Kyrgyzstan, says over 4,000 students evacuated

Pakistan forms inquiry committee to probe mob attacks in Kyrgyzstan, says over 4,000 students evacuated
Updated 35 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan forms inquiry committee to probe mob attacks in Kyrgyzstan, says over 4,000 students evacuated

Pakistan forms inquiry committee to probe mob attacks in Kyrgyzstan, says over 4,000 students evacuated
  • Ishaq Dar says the inquiry committee will coordinate with the Kyrgyz authorities and submit report in two weeks
  • Deputy PM says he asked his Kyrgyz counterpart to legalize 1,100 Pakistani workers being pursued for deportation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday constituted an inquiry committee to establish what led to the mob attacks on its students in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, said the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, as over 4,000 Pakistani nationals were brought back from the Central Asian state.
Dar visited Bishkek on Tuesday to address the concerns of young students from his country enrolled in various educational institutions who witnessed the mob violence last week.
According to some media reports, the situation went out of hand in Bishkek last Friday after videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral on social media, prompting groups of local residents to target university hostels and private lodgings of international students, including those from Pakistan.
Official figures shared by the Pakistan embassy in Kyrgyzstan reveal nearly 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in the Central Asian country, with about 6,000 in Bishkek. The frenzied violence forced them to confine themselves for several hours in their rooms without food and drinking water, prompting many of them to make evacuation requests online.
“The additional secretary administration of the foreign ministry, Muhammad Saleem, will head a fact-finding committee to look into the incident, including the reason for such developments and subsequent reaction of the Pakistani mission and the government,” Dar told the media in a news briefing.
He said the committee would coordinate with the Kyrgyz authorities to review all the findings and developments in Bishkek and submit its report within two weeks.
The deputy prime minister informed a total of 4,036 students had returned from Bishkek by last night.
“To date, 3,233 students have returned on commercial flights, while 513 have benefitted from special flights arranged by the federal government,” he added. “The special flights arranged by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government have also brought back 290 students.”
Dar said during his meeting with the Kyrgyz deputy PM, he inquired about the fate of the perpetrators of the violence and was told that the administration in Bishkek had zero tolerance in such matters.
“My counterpart told me that the Kyrgyz President had publicly announced that action would be taken [against those involved in the mob violence],” he added. “Many people have already been arrested by law enforcement agencies.”
Asked about the future of the returning students, he informed he had called for a meeting of the all stakeholders on Friday to look into the possibility of accommodating them in the Pakistani medical institutions.
Dar said he also found out that nearly 1,100 workers from Pakistan residing in Kyrgyzstan were being pursued for deportation by the government due to their illegal stay.
“I requested the Kyrgyz deputy prime minister to legalize them instead of deporting them and he agreed by saying that he would seek approval from the National Security Committee and Ministry of Immigration to make that possible,” he continued.
Dar said he had instructed the foreign secretary and the country’s diplomatic mission in Bishkek to pursue the issue until its implementation.
“This will benefit around 1,100 families in Pakistan,” he added.