food security

How Saudi Arabia is making progress toward food security

Article by: Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini, the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

The Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC), a Public Investment Fund (PIF) business, has made an announcement confirming that its 60,000 ton shipment of Australian wheat will be arriving in the Kingdom around the middle of June 2021.

This shipment, part of SALIC’s tender to purchase 355,000 tons of wheat, is in line with Saudi Arabia’s bid to promote Saudi investors abroad and the Kingdom’s food security program, which aims to diversify and increase sources of foreign food supplies.

SALIC’s objective is to contribute to agricultural and livestock production and supply. Its investment focus is on mass commodities, including wheat, barley, corn, rice and sugar. SALIC’s mandate is to make long-term investments in countries that have the agricultural capacity and a surplus of agricultural exports.

Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s largest individual food importer, with about 80 percent of the country’s food consumption coming from overseas. Food consumption in the Kingdom, currently estimated at 16 million tons, is expected to grow 4.6 percent per annum. In line with its food security plans, Saudi Arabia’s most ambitious agricultural goal is to become self-sufficient and transform itself from an importer to an exporter of basic foods such as wheat, dates, dairy products, meats and vegetables to key markets around the world.

Food security is a priority for any economy, including Saudi Arabia, considering the different challenges including water scarcity, land use, climate change and human capital. It is essential to redesign food production efforts innovatively given the anticipated high growth of the population in the next 10 years. Not only is the population growing, but also its dietary lifestyle is changing as well. People’s menu trends, especially among the young generation, has shifted to food items that are richer in processed foods, meat and dairy.

We at BMG Financial Group have been involved for many years with agribusiness investment opportunities in the Kingdom and abroad. Our most recent engagement is with Sunridge Partners, an agriculture private equity manager that plans to raise capital to invest in high-quality farmland and production assets to produce high-quality citrus fruit in Spain and Portugal. This investment vehicle will be implemented in line with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) guidelines.

In my opinion, SALIC’s strategy to import, invest or create joint-venture partnerships in agribusiness, locally and internationally, is a wise one and will further diversify its sources to achieve a sustainable long-term food security objective in line with the country’s Vision 2030.

Source: ArabNews


Dubai launches food and agriculture technology city

The new Food Tech Valley will feature research and development facilities to develop advanced farming technology.

Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has launched a specialized zone that will help the UAE achieve its food security goals.

The new Food Tech Valley will feature research and development facilities to develop advanced farming technology, and incubate innovative agribusiness ideas.

The Dubai ruler said the development will triple the UAE’s food production.
“We launched the first phase of Food Tech Valley, a new modern & vibrant city that will serve as a global destination for start-ups and industry experts in the food ecosystem,” he said on Twitter.

“It will host R&D facilities, innovation center, smart food logistics hub and areas for vertical farming,” the UAE leader added.

The UAE’s food trade exceeds 100 billion dirhams ($27.2 billion) annually, he said, describing the Gulf country as a global food logistics hub.

The Gulf region has been exploring ways to improve sustainability in regards with food production.

Source: ArabNews


Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan aim to develop cooperation in the field of agriculture

Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sardor Umurzakov held a meeting with Minister of Environment, Water Resources and Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abdulrahman al-Fadli.

During the dialogue, the sides discussed the possibilities for building long-term mutually beneficial trade, economic and investment ties between the two countries in the agricultural sector.

The parties noted the significant potential for attracting leading Saudi Arabian companies in this area to invest in the creation of high-tech greenhouses and fruit and vegetable processing industries in Uzbekistan with the prospect of exporting to markets with high demand.

The high interest of large Saudi companies, such as Savola Group, SALIC, Almarai, Tamimi Group, who visited Uzbekistan in January this year as part of a delegation of government and business circles, to establish production activities in the market of the Republic was emphasized.

An agreement was reached on the systematization of interaction on the development of specific investment proposals to attract Saudi companies to their practical implementation.

They voiced mutual readiness for further joint work to create conditions for enhancing cooperation in the field of agriculture. In this context, the parties welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the State Committee for Veterinary Medicine and Livestock Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Following the meeting, further interaction algorithms were outlined to deepen bilateral ties in the field of agriculture.

Source: UZ Daily


Saudi Arabia creates a buzz with support for honey farms

Honey, an essential part of the breakfast ritual for many Saudis, is one of the most popular products from the Kingdom’s southern highlands.

For hundreds of years, the mountains of Asir have produced some of the finest varieties of honey.

The mountains are known for their climatic and geographical diversity, with thousands of trees and flowering shrubs providing an ideal environment for nature’s cultivators, bees.

The Sarat Asir mountains are ideal for beekeeping in the Saudi summers, due to the precipitation and moderate weather.

In winter, beekeepers move their hives from the mountaintops to the Tihama plains in order to achieve ecological balance and protect bees from harsh conditions.

Bees can also produce larger quantities of honey due to the availability of honey plants and trees, such as the sidr, sumra, talh, salm, darm, sharm and shouka.

Honey production is gaining extra attention from the government, which has launched several projects to encourage beekeeping.

The projects hope to train Saudi youth to pursue beekeeping as part of a campaign to promote the culture of beekeeping in the Kingdom in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the labor market.

Realizing the importance of beekeeping and honey production in achieving self-sufficiency, King Khalid University in Asir has set up a special research unit on bees and honey production, which will also help to create jobs for Saudi youth.

The Bees and Honey Production Research Unit has launched several programs and initiatives, including the “Distinctive Trademark” scheme with the beekeeping industry.

It has also begun marketing bee products and the region’s uniqueness in having rare types of high-quality honey in a bid to counter the sale of inferior products, one of the main challenges facing beekeepers and national marketers.

The unit’s laboratories test the quality of the honey and other bee products. A laboratory equipped with an incubator where bees can stay until they are examined also carries out diagnosis of bee diseases.

Microscopes and a special microscopic imaging unit are used to photograph pathogens and diagnose illnesses.

Asir is witnessing remarkable cooperation between authorities specialized in beekeeping, such as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the Cooperative Society for Beekeepers, the Bee Research Unit and Saudi Aramco, to support beekeepers and promote the culture of beekeeping among Saudi youth.

Methods of beekeeping and honey production vary between hobby and commercial purposes.

Some beekeepers create special hives in backyards, parks, near their homes or on farms, and prefer calm bee strains that can adapt to the space and flowering plants in the surrounding area.

Saudi Arabia’s growing need will encourage beekeepers and farmers to provide high-quality products for the local market.

Source: ArabNews

quality of life

Saudi Green initiative is about improving quality of life

Unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 3, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives are designed to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 60 percent.

The Saudi Green initiative is not only about planting trees; it is primarily about sustainability and improving the quality of life. The initiative will be the world’s largest afforestation project with its aim to plant 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in Saudi Arabia.

The region faces significant climate challenges, and the Saudi Green initiative is part of the effort to secure a sustainable future, especially as one of the most prominent features of the Arabian Peninsula is its sandy desert, with its hot climate, desertification, low rainfall and dust storms.

Saudi Arabia has proactively started and engineered four main mega-projects: Qiddiya, NEOM, the Red Sea Project and AMAALA, which all have sustainability as their core objectives. The projects will help to improve the quality of life, reduce carbon emissions, tackle deforestation, preserve marine and coastal environments and accelerate the transition to clean energy by boosting the amount of energy generated by renewables.

Saudi Arabia is focusing on the use of clean hydrocarbons and renewable energy and has set a goal that by 2030 half of its energy capacity will come from renewable sources, with the remaining 50 percent from gas.

This goal has helped raise the level of environmental awareness in the Kingdom and has led to increased international cooperation — all key solutions in reaching the country’s climate change objectives.

During its presidency of the G20 last year, Saudi Arabia was a staunch advocate for technology, stressing the role innovation can play in efforts to reduce and eliminate emissions.

One of the challenges involved in planting 10 billion trees in Saudi Arabia is water scarcity, as the Kingdom’s freshwater ecosystems are limited.

However, this challenge will be met by the advances taking place in the water treatment sector and the fact that the Kingdom is the world’s largest producer of desalinated water. Huge strides are also being made in the water distribution, sewerage and wastewater treatment sectors.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture intends to slash water consumption by about 43 percent to 150 liters per capita per day by 2030, as the Kingdom has one of the highest per capita water consumption rates in the world at 250 liters per capita per day.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia can utilize the treated wastewater to irrigate the trees. This water can then be released into the atmosphere, where it evaporates causing rain precipitation elsewhere — a process known as evapotranspiration — which will soften the atmosphere and reduce dust.

Saudi Arabia does not use coal to generate electricity, which is the most damaging fossil fuel, responsible for 72 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

It might be self-evident to confront coal power plants and not oil, which is not the main source of carbon emissions, but I believe a carbon tax should be primarily imposed on coal producers and consumers.

That being said, international efforts should work toward achieving an integrated system to meet climate and environmental challenges and raise the quality of life, but not to degrade or substitute hydrocarbons that cannot be replaced in the long term.

Source: ArabNews

red sea company

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea company to plant over 15 million trees

Red Sea Development Company will plant more than 15 million shrubs and trees in its Red Sea Project.

In line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the Red Sea Development Co. will plant more than 15 million shrubs and trees in its Red Sea Project.
Raed Al-Baseet, head of corporate environment and sustainability, said the plants and saplings will be provided through the company’s nursery.
He said the company also seeks to increase the percentage of seaweeds to help absorb carbon dioxide. Al-Baseet told the Saudi Press Agency that the company aimed to increase mangroves and coral reefs.
He said that ensuring a sustainable environment was at the core of the company’s policies.
He said: “We know … that this area will become a destination for renewable tourism. To ensure achieving ecological diversity and balance, which we aspire to realize by 2040, we have conducted surveys taking into consideration the long-term environmental impacts of the operational actions of the scheme.”
Source: ArabNews

SABIC signs agreement with “Estidamah” to manage and develop the center’s business

SABIC has signed an agreement with the National Research & Development Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (Estidamah) to manage and develople the center’s business in Riyadh.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and Chairman of Estidamah board of members, and SABIC Vice Chairman & CEO Yousef Al-Benyan signed the agreement.

The new five-year agreement is effective from July 25, 2021, following the expiry of an arrangement agreed upon by SABIC and MEWA in 2016 under which the former was mandated to run Estidamah for five years, which ends on July 24, 2021.

“The new agreement will promote SABIC’s contribution in developing  Sustainable Agriculture progrms to achieve  the goals of the National strategy for Agriculture in the kingdom which line  Vision 2030.” said Al-Benyan.

As per the agreement, SABIC will assign eight staff to work & manage the Estidamah center. In return, SABIC will benefit from the center to conduct  its research work.

Located in Riyadh Techno Valley on the campus of King Saud University in Riyadh, the Estidamah center was established in 2013 as an agricultural research center to conduct applied research on innovative technologies for sustainable agriculture. The center’s research focuses on increasing production per unit area, improving quality, minimising the use of pesticides, and improving water use efficiency.

SABIC collaborated with the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture to fund, build, and operate the Estidamah center.

The primary goal of the center is to promote sustainable agriculture in Saudi Arabia and adopted advance agricultural tools to promote sustainable agriculture practices in Saudi Arabia, enable the optimal use of natural resources and water, to contribute to achieving food security, and preserving these resources for future generations

The center seeks to establish its position as a leading institution in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region as an applied research institute that provides a range of agriculture-related solutions to public and private agencies at the national and international levels. Through research, it identifies practical, applicable solutions for the development, improvement, and implementation of agriculture technologies in the Kingdom.



Middle Eastern, African seafood markets poised for growth as consumption and urbanization rise

Demand for seafood products in the Middle East and Africa has been rising steadily, a trend that is likely to persist through 2027, according to a new report from Insight Partners, a venture capital and research firm based in New York City, U.S.A.

The report, “Middle East and Africa Seafood Market Forecast to 2027 – COVID-19 Impact and Regional Analysis,” found the value of the seafood market in the two regions is projected to grow from USD 9.3 billion (EUR 7.7 billion) in 2019 to USD 10.7 billion (EUR 8.9 billion) in the next six years.

Rising seafood per capita consumption, increasing demand for imported seafood products, and the emergence of specialty seafood restaurants are some of the factors anticipated to drive market growth in the regions, according to the report. And an anticipated continued growth of seafood consumption in the two regions will be the primary expansion driver, Insight Partners found.

“Improvement in economic conditions and gradual increase in disposable income levels will also complement market growth,” the report said.

Africa’s economic growth is estimated at 3.4 percent for 2019 and 2020, according to the African Development Bank, which projects the growth to increase to 3.9 percent in 2021. The growth is expected to expand the continent’s middle class, giving them more disposable income, which may accelerate that income group’s increasing preference for premium seafood products.

The Insight Partners report also cites growing urbanization as one of the biggest drivers in growth of the seafood market in both the Middle East and Africa, with demand surpassing supply, requiring a surge in imported products to plug the deficit. The report mirrors projections by other agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which point to urbanization as a key driver shaping consumption trends, especially in Africa. The OECD estimates Africa’s urban population rose to 567 million in 2015 from 27 million in 1950, giving the continent one of the fastest urban growth rates in the world. The OECD further predicts Africa’s population will double by 2050, with 75 percent of the growth “absorbed by urban areas.”

Growth in urbanization “has shaped the nature and extent of fish consumption in many countries,” according to the FAO in the 2020 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.

“Urban inhabitants typically have more disposable income to spend in animal protein such as fish, and they eat away from home more often,” FAO said. “[Furthermore], infrastructure in urban areas allow for more efficient storage, distribution, and marketing of fish and fish products.”

The rising number of households with discretionary spending in Africa could underpin faster growth of the region’s consumer market according to Deloitte. The business advisory firm estimated the number of Africans with a capacity for discretionary spending on seafood at 375 million, or 34 percent of the continent’s population.

That population is increasingly looking toward imported product to meet its demand. Africa imports up to 35 percent of the fish consumed in the continent due to “solid demand, including that for non-locally produced species in the face of static or declining domestic fish production” according to FAO.

“African fish imports, mainly affordable small pelagics and tilapia, present an important source of nutrition, especially for populations that are otherwise dependent on a narrow range of staple foods,” FAO said.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is emerging as the major player in the region’s seafood market. Saudi Arabia’s imports and exports of fish and fishery products has “been on an increasing trend in recent years,” according to the FAO. FAO estimates the country’s seafood imports to reached USD 633.1 million (EUR 522.2 million) by 2015, compared to USD 100 million (EUR 82.4 million) in exports.

An additional 300,000 tons of seafood products is expected to be produced in South Arabia by 2035 after four companies merged to boost the country’s fisheries sector. The merger, involving aquaculture companies Jazadco, Tabuk Fisheries co., Aquaculture Sharq Farms Company, and Tharawat Seas, with a total market value of SAR 500 million (USD 133.2 million, EUR 109.8 million), is designed to eventually create “the world’s leading company in fish and shrimp farming sectors through operating integrated farms,” according to the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture.

As part of the announcement, completed last January, the new firm, now known as Advanced Aquaculture Company, hopes to produce 60,000 metric tons (MT) of seafood in its first phase of growth, 120,000 MT in its second stage, and 300,000 MT by 2035.

Source: SeafoodSource

fish farming projects

Fund to support 70% of fish farming projects in Saudi Arabia

The Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) revealed plans to fund 70 percent of the total cost of projects launched as part of the Fish Farming Support Program on Monday.

The announcement came during the “Investing in Fish Farming” workshop, run by the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Committee on Agriculture and Food Security and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.Saudi Arabia has the potential to become the world’s leading countries in fish farming.

The strategies of the ADF to promote the sector, meanwhile, have also given it advantages over regional competitors, with the Kingdom’s aquaculture production set to reach 970,000 tons per year by 2029.

A paper on fish farming at the workshop though, presented by Saud Al-Otaibi, aquaculture consultant at Coral Coast Co., showed that the country still imports three times as much fish as it produces. It stated that global fisheries production is set to reach 181 million tons by 2022, highlighting the demand for fish and, by extension, the viability of investment in the sector, but also raising questions over issues of sustainability, professional training, quality control and competition from other markets.

Source: ArabNews

saudi farmer vertical farm

Saudi Farmer Has Built The Region’s First Vertical Farm

The Saudi farmer Omar Al-Jundi even he is not related to farming by degree. But that is exactly where the industrial engineer found his calling, when he built the region’s first vertical farm in the heart of Dubai. Born in Egypt to Saudi parents, Al-Jundi spent his early years in Alkhobar due to his father’s engineering firm.

The family moved to Jeddah when he was 12 years old. His last two years of schooling were spent at Bahrain School in Manama. “I wanted to graduate with an American high school diploma,” Al-Jundi said. “At the time, as a Saudi, you couldn’t attend private foreign schools.” Upon graduation, he left the region to study industrial engineering, followed by an MBA at the University of Miami in Florida. Although his father is an engineer and his mother an architect, Al Jundi delved into the world of banking for two and a half years when he moved back to Jeddah upon graduating.

“I then shifted to the hospitality industry, opened the first lounge in Jeddah along with other restaurants with my friends, and ended up selling my share and joining my father’s company,” he said. “You learn that you’re better off doing something on your own than having partners because you end up changing directions.”
After 10 years of “paying his dues” in the family business, he felt compelled to change directions. “As an Arab, you’re always closely tied to the family,” he said. “We’re blessed my father started a business and there’s a place for us in that business, but luckily, my younger brother was a lot more interested in it — I always felt my calling was somewhere else.”

In search of his true passion, he started his journey as an entrepreneur. The field he specialized in had yet to be determined. “I felt that there was a meaning for something else,” Al-Jundi said. “I was free and my family was very supportive.”
Countless research and books later, he became intrigued by the tech space, admitting he believed he would start the next Amazon. “That didn’t follow through,” he said. “Then I thought it would be in mining, but I always looked for something that was away from my comfort zone such as engineering, contracting, real estate and consulting. Just something different. It was a process.”

The young Saudi had reached a point in his life where he felt the need to do something impactful, something which added true value to the region. Eventually, two of his friends introduced him to the concept of modern farming. “I visited some orange farms in Egypt and I was in exploration research mode,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing nature — you’re a lot more relaxed. Here, when you go in and see the plants growing every day, there’s definitely a connection, because you’re seeing the end product, you’re feeling it, and I connect to them.”

The more research he immersed himself in, the more driven his interest became. At the time, the Saudi Government was focused on addressing food security and self-sufficiency. “It’s always been a big topic,” he said. “When you fly out of Riyadh, you find these big circular green spots as they’re trying to green and farm the desert, which was successful, but on the other hand, it depleted our water resources.” According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, agriculture represents around 70 per cent of water consumption in most of the GCC countries. But Al-Jundi did not give up on the thought.

After moving to Dubai in 2014, he learned about King Abdullah’s Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad. Half the capital needed for agricultural projects was offered to Saudis who invested in a list of 31 countries abroad to purchase land, set up a project and export the food back to the Kingdom. It gave him an idea to start his own vertical farm. “I knew it was a big topic,” he said. “I’d never heard we could grow food with no soil. I thought it was intriguing and fascinating. It was enough for me to know there was something there to explore it further.”

With more than 90 per cent of the region’s land unsuitable for agriculture, Al-Jundi set out to find a solution. He spent the following 12 weeks taking courses in aquaponics, aquaculture, hydroponics and horticulture in California and the Netherlands. He even spent time working in a cucumber greenhouse at the Delphy facility in Holland, where he acquired valuable experience in the field. “It was really professional and a great learning experience,” he said. “That’s when I knew what I wanted to do. And I knew I had to completely immerse myself in it.”
The team of Badia Farms, which he founded in Al Quoz in December last year, consists of 12 people, all of whom have experience in farming. “It took 18 months to get it up and running because we didn’t work with any technical partner,” Al-Jundi said. “I knew I was in it for the long haul, so I worked with different growers and learned.”

The 850-square-meter facility includes a “fertigation” room, which fertilizes and irrigates the 18 varieties of crops he currently grows. Gourmet seeds, some of them hybrids, such as lemon basil, cinnamon kale, wasabi, green radish, mustard, micro kale, edible flowers and cinnamon basil, are flown in from the United Kingdom and the United States every three months — from 50 to 300 kilograms at a time. The farm plans on introducing as many as 26 varieties, including sunflowers.

The seeds are placed on a type of mat made of recycled carpet that is food-certified. LED lights flood the room in a pink atmosphere, with each UV light containing a certain spectrum that is beneficial for the plants.
In the tank room, feed and water is scheduled through a computer based on the crop, with a unique nutrient recipe for each type, including potassium, calcium, magnesium and ammonium. UV and concentrated oxygen are also able to kill any potential bacteria or pathogens in the recycled water. Once the seeds sprout, they are moved to the five stacks in the vertical farm. Four dehumidifiers regulate the humidity in the air, providing each on average with 70 litres of water a day. The eco-system created by Badia Farms uses 90 per cent less water than open field farming and recycles its water up to nine times.

“We’re using hydroponics,” Al- Jundi said. “The biggest advantage is that we do not spray pesticides, which are messing up our health. In fact, we extensively use stickers to attract insects away from the crops.” Different levels of lighting are provided for each stage of the plants, before they are sent out as they were grown. “They’re intense in flavor and it’s the freshest you can get that way,” he said. “My personal favourite is chocolate mint.” With 60 clients so far, serving hotels, restaurants and cafes, the model is a first for the region, which made it challenging to set up. “All the ones abroad are designed for different climatic conditions so none of them are applicable here, where there is extreme humidity and high temperatures,” he said. “And to convince a chef to give you his time, when you don’t have the track record, was a big challenge. I wasn’t a known farmer yet.”

The system’s structure was manufactured in Riyadh, with a plan to set up the next facility by 2020 in Jeddah. Until then, the plan is to cater to Saudi as well as the UAE. “Dubai is a good testing ground and Saudi’s vision now is to support our type of sustainable growing and ecological farms, so it’s perfectly in line with what we want to do,” Al-Jundi said. “The government is now delegated to move into sustainable growing and find viable solutions to address self-sufficiency, so it’s not a slogan anymore: it’s the real deal.”

He hopes to develop similar projects across the Kingdom in the future. “My aim is to make sure we truly become self-sufficient,” he said. “Vertical farming is one solution but it’s not the full one — the ideal solution lies in all models of modern farming. What’s close to my heart is giving people healthy food while preserving our resources, and I believe the new generations of Saudis are ambitious and want to evolve our country. We were just waiting for the opportunity and it has finally come.”


Source: Arab News


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