Govt incentivizes growth of organic farming sector

Updated 20 February 2015

Govt incentivizes growth of organic farming sector

Saudi Arabia has expressed its support to farmers in promoting organic farming, and to phase out production of all water intensive crops that are depleting the country’s scarce water supplies.
“The total number of organic farms in the Kingdom exceeds 130 today,” said Khlaid M. Al-Fuhaid, deputy minister for agriculture, on Wednesday night.
Al-Fuhaid said that “Saudi Arabia’s organic sector is currently undergoing transformation, which is primarily driven by the support extended by the Ministry of Agriculture and the initiative of private sector stakeholders.” The deputy minister was speaking after inaugurating a week-long Agriculture Festival at the Khuraish Road Lulu Hypermarket here in Riyadh.
The inaugural ceremony of the ‘Saudi Agro Fresh Fest From Our Land’ in Riyadh was attended by top Saudi officials and Lulu executives including Bashar Naser Al-Basher, the chief of Lulu Administration; Allewi Al-Kamshe, Human Resources manager; Abdullah Al-Enizy, Public Relations manager; and Shehim Mohamed Unni, the regional director. The same event was inaugurated at Lulu Hypermarket in Alkhobar by Thariq Al-Mulhim, director of Agricultural Extension Department in the Eastern Province.
Referring to the organic agriculture policy of the ministry, he said that further growth of organic sector can be expected over the coming years. To this end, it is important to note that the total area of organic farms in the Kingdom is over 35,000 hectares. A recent study predicted that organic farms will account for around five percent of farming area in the Kingdom by the year 2017.
In the context of depreciating water resources, Al-Fuhaid said that Saudi Arabia has plans in place to phase out production of all water-consuming crops. The crops include wheat, soya beans and animal fodder. The Kingdom needs around 2.6 million tons of wheat annually, and the Saudi government said last year it would rely entirely on wheat imports by 2016.
When asked about the support extended by the Ministry of Agriculture to the agriculture festival, Al-Naser thanked the ministry and said that the Lulu agriculture festival is features a huge range of products including about 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables, mainly produced in Al-Qassim, Al-Hasa, Jizan, Qatif and Al-Kharj. A number of prizes will be given by Lulu management on this occasion.
A large number of products have also been put on sale at promotional prices. Al Naser called on the customers to visit Lulu Hypermarkets in Riyadh and Al-Khobar and buy the lowest-priced fresh fruits and vegetables. He also added that Ministry of Agriculture had appreciated Lulu Hypermarket “for organizing such festivals in a grand way and this in turn supports the local farms and also the local economy.”


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.