Environment Ministry launches ‘Harvest Season’ campaign to promote local fruits

Environment Ministry launches ‘Harvest Season’ campaign to promote local fruits
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture on Wednesday launched an awareness campaign called “Harvest Season” to promote locally produced fruits and raise the efficiency of its marketing system to support Saudi farmers. (SPA)
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Updated 10 July 2024
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Environment Ministry launches ‘Harvest Season’ campaign to promote local fruits

Environment Ministry launches ‘Harvest Season’ campaign to promote local fruits
  • Initiative aims at raising awareness of the importance of produce
  • ‘Campaign aims to educate the public about health and nutritional benefits,’ says spokesperson Saleh Bindakhil

RIYADH: The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture on Wednesday launched an awareness campaign called “Harvest Season” to promote locally produced fruits and raise the efficiency of its marketing system to support Saudi farmers.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the launch was part of efforts aimed at raising awareness of the importance of eating local fruits; promoting a healthy lifestyle by buying local produce; and spreading knowledge of agricultural products.
Saleh Bindakhil, the ministry’s official spokesperson, said: “The campaign aims to educate the public about the health and nutritional benefits of various local fruits that are available in different seasons during the year, and to achieve a set of goals that are in line with the ministry’s policies and strategies and the objectives of Vision 2030.”
Bindakhil added that “Harvest Season” also aimed to support the production of local goods; enhance their quality and safety; increase awareness of agricultural produce and the health benefits of eating local fruits; help the marketing of local products; and support local farmers, while increasing their income in accordance with Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to improve the standard of living and raise the quality of life.
He acknowledged the great support enjoyed by the agricultural sector from the leadership, which had contributed to enhancing the sustainability of local crop production and increased the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product to SR100 billion.
This support has directly contributed to increasing and strengthening the rates of self-sufficiency in a number of fruits and agricultural crops, including dates, figs, cantaloupes, watermelons, grapes, mangoes, and pomegranates.


NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
Updated 15 July 2024
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NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees

NEOM-KAUST partnership to target insects threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees
  • Salman Al-Wahib warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold

RIYADH: Citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia are no strangers to extreme heat conditions, and over the years they have learned to adapt. But as temperatures rise, so do the bugs. And sometimes the problem cannot simply be swatted away.

Tephriditae fruit flies, such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and the olive fruit fly, as well as insects such as the red palm weevil, are among the biggest antagonizing forces against the nation’s plant and fruit supply.

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

At the launch of the Saudi Agrifood Tech Alliance in early July in Riyadh, Andrew Yip, head of innovation and ecosystem activation at Topian, revealed the development of new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology start-up, Topian plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour, Yip said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• In partnership with AK-Sens, a King Abdullah University of Science and Technology startup, Topian is developing a new technology designed to target the red palm weevils threatening Saudi Arabia’s 36 million palm trees.

• The project plans to commercialize and scale optical fiber sensing technology for early-stage detection of the insect in thousands of trees in under an hour.

• It has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

Following initial testing with only a handful of trees in Tabuk, the team’s latest trial at NEOM involved a thousand trees and achieved 96.3 percent accuracy with a two thirds reduction of set-up time from previous trials.

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (Supplied)

While the sensing technology has been so far exclusive to palm trees and red palm weevils, it has the potential to increase overall efficiency and sustainability in the agrifood sector and farms nationwide.

To better understand the health risks associated with consuming pest-infested fruits and vegetables, Arab News spoke to Dr. Basem Al-Bahrani, the emergency medicine consultant at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare and a member of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

He said: “Eating vegetables and fruits is an essential part of a healthy diet, but there are health risks associated with eating them if they are contaminated or not washed properly. These risks may include a variety of issues that may affect individuals in different ways.”

Saudi farmers preserve date crops using a technique called ‘sleeving,’ which involves covering the fruit to protect it from pests, weather conditions and other forms of contamination. (AN photo)

Food poisoning as a result of salmonella, Escherichia coli (or E. coli), or listeria bacteria is among the most common issues and its symptoms include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and a fever, Al-Bahrani explained.

Other possible health risks are parasitic infections that at their best present the same as food poisoning and at their worst may cause weight loss and anemia. Finally, ingesting pesticide remnants could lead to hormonal imbalances, nervous system disorders, and increased risk of cancer.

NUMBER

$2.4bn

According to research by Topian, NEOM’s food company, the SR9.2 billion ($2.4 billion) date industry loses an average of SR1 billion annually in date palms and associated forgone revenues because of red palm weevil infestations.

Arab News also spoke to Salman Al-Wahib, a Saudi Advanced Business Co. Holding retiree turned farmer and owner of a plant tissue culture laboratory and nursery for outdoor and indoor plants, with 11 years of experience in the field.

He said that fruit pests are a problem that “requires great care from those responsible, farmers, and consumers.” Al-Wahib also warns that summer is an especially dangerous time because rising temperatures and humidity levels provide conditions for the pests to thrive and contribute to the spread of bacteria and plant mold.

He explained that the problem begins, expectedly, at the farming stage. While pests are most common in local fruits, it is more often than not the symptom of imported seeds and soil. If the seeds and soil are not properly treated before the initial shipment, these containers become welcoming habitats for pest procreation, ready to continue their infestation at their final destination.

Farmers and producers follow strict sanitation, inspection, and clearance procedures to avoid large-scale infestation. According to Al-Wahib, the fruit undergoes an interior and exterior inspection to check for any traces of pests. Then, fruit samples are taken to the lab and tested for pests and any pesticide remnants.

The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture monitors farming sites to ensure that no highly poisonous and environmentally harmful pesticides are used and the standard provisions of Pesticide Law — agreed upon by the agricultural department of the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2005 — are followed. The law states that “it is essential to control and regulate the way they (pesticides) are formulated, used, marketed, stored and handled to stave off any potential risks.” Finally, a certification is granted deeming the selected crop pest and pesticide free and safe for human consumption.

As much as the development of organic pesticides has seen great strides in the last few decades, and farmers such as Al-Wahib agree that they are the superior option to chemical pesticides in efficacy and plant health, there is yet a long way to go to bring down that SR1 billion loss to a much more reasonable number and prevent widespread health issues.

According to Al-Wahib, in addition to thoroughly washing fruits at home, watching for signs of infestation, and using suitable storage techniques, the best way to avoid the dangers of fruit pests is to “buy from trusted local markets or farms that have an official certification deeming them free of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers.”

That way our favorite summer fruits may be readily enjoyed worry-free to refresh from the sweltering summer heat.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill
Updated 15 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill

Saudi Arabia’s Qassim region conducts major flood drill
  • The simulation was deemed crucial for measuring the response time, coordination efficiency, and overall preparedness for such extreme weather events

AL-MITHNAB: The Qassim Municipality’s Al-Mithnab branch has successfully executed a simulation of heavy rainfall and flash floods. The drill, which involved all relevant departments and divisions, put the region’s disaster preparedness to the test in order to bolster its emergency response capabilities.

The exercise saw the activation of the emergency rainfall plan. Some 40 field personnel were mobilized alongside a fleet of 12 vehicles and machinery, all operating under the comprehensive Emergency and Disaster Management Plan.

A key focus of the drill was assessing the readiness of critical infrastructure. Teams inspected the rainwater drainage networks, pumps, and generators. They also meticulously mapped out potential rainwater accumulation sites across the governorate’s streets.

The simulation was deemed crucial for measuring the response time, coordination efficiency, and overall preparedness for such extreme weather events.

 

 


British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability

British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability
Updated 16 July 2024
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British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability

British PM praises Saudi crown prince for role in promoting Middle East stability
  • Starmer, Prince Mohammed reflected on strong relationship between UK and Kingdom
  • Starmer thanked the crown prince for his congratulations on recent election victory

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the British Prime Minister Keir Starmer spoke on Monday.

Starmer thanked the crown prince for giving his congratulations on the Labour Party leader’s election victory and reported on his first days in government, a Downing Street statement said.

While discussing the situation in the Middle East, the prime minister praised the crown prince for his leadership in supporting regional stability, and emphasized the UK’s enduring commitment to peace and security in the region.

The prime minister and crown prince reflected on the strong relationship between the UK and the Kingdom, including through the Strategic Partnership Council. 

The leaders look forward to meeting in person soon and working together to strengthen areas of shared interest, including trade, investment, and defense cooperation, the statement from No. 10 added.


Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit

Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit
Updated 15 July 2024
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Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit

Saudi Shoura Council delegation arrives in Bahrain for official visit
  • Visit will include the signing of a MoU aimed at developing parliamentary cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Shoura Council Speaker Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh is leading a delegation on an official visit to Bahrain, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

During the visit, Sheikh Abdullah will hold a meeting with Ahmed bin Salman Al-Musallam, speaker of Bahrain’s Council of Representatives.

He will also meet Ali Bin Saleh Al-Saleh, chairman of the Bahraini Shoura Council, as well as other senior officials from the country.

It is believed that Sheikh Abdullah’s visit will include the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Shoura Council and the Bahraini House of Representatives aimed at developing parliamentary cooperation.

Sheikh Abdullah said the visit is driven by the Kingdom’s commitment, under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to foster cooperation and coordination for the benefit and prosperity of both nations and their peoples, and to strengthen and unify Gulf ties.

Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the deep-rooted fraternal relations between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, adding that the close ties between the two countries in local, regional and international areas served as an example to be followed.

He pointed to the importance of the visit in activating parliamentary friendship committees, which significantly enhance coordination between the councils.
 


Who’s Who: Riham El-Gizy, CEO of Voluntary Carbon Market

Who’s Who: Riham El-Gizy, CEO of Voluntary Carbon Market
Updated 15 July 2024
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Who’s Who: Riham El-Gizy, CEO of Voluntary Carbon Market

Who’s Who: Riham El-Gizy, CEO of Voluntary Carbon Market

Riham El-Gizy is the CEO of Voluntary Carbon Market, a Saudi company which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region.

In the company’s first 18 months, El-Gizy led the world’s largest-ever voluntary carbon market auction in Riyadh in 2022, before setting a new record at a second auction in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2023.

She now leads the development of Saudi Arabia’s first carbon exchange, launching in 2024.

El-Gizy, who is recognized in New African’s 100 Most Influential Africans of 2023 list, leads efforts to convene people and organizations from all sides of the voluntary carbon market ecosystem, shaping the direction of the industry as it grows to play an increasingly valuable role in tackling climate change.

The company last year hosted the first Global South Carbon Markets Conference at Future Investment Initiative Institute in Riyadh. El-Gizy has contributed to various other international conferences in addition, including the Africa Climate Summit and COP (Conference of the Parties).

Through her leadership at the company, she is demonstrating how the Middle East and Africa can work together to drive innovative climate action in emerging economies.

El-Gizy brings a wealth of expertise to her current role. She boasts more than 20 years of international experience dedicated to impacting related investments through her extensive work as a leader in mergers and acquisitions, as well as strategy and business development experience.

She was formerly head of Saudi Aramco’s investment valuations and structuring, the function responsible for advising and formulating investment decisions for corporate and executive management and government institutions.

Prior to joining Saudi Aramco, she spent 16 years with BP in North America and North Africa.

She has a track record in originating and executing energy, clean technology, and renewable energy transactions across the globe.

El-Gizy earned a master’s degree in business administration from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and worked on projects promoting sustainable economic growth in emerging markets, through the deployment of innovative technology solutions and climate change simulations, during her time at the university.