Saudi Arabia to grow strategic grains abroad
Riyadh, June 14, 2008
Saudi Arabia plans to grow strategic grains abroad to protect the country from crises in world food supply, a government official said on Saturday.
Abdullah al-Obaid, a deputy agriculture minister, said the government was in talks with officials in Sudan, Egypt, Ukraine, Pakistan and Turkey to allow Saudi companies to establish projects for wheat, barley, soya bean, rice and animal fodder.
'The government would like to pave the way for Saudi investors to go abroad to use their experience, know-how and money to invest in such countries in order to bring produce here,' he told Reuters.
'We have negotiations with these countries and we have received some offers welcoming Saudi investors but we want to be sure such investments are secure and governments will give logistical help to them.'
Traders said earlier this month that Bahrain wanted to invest in rice farmland in the Philippines in a move to boost food security.
Saudi Arabia's Savola Group has said this year it plans to spend at least $100 million to buy minority shares in agribusiness firms in Sudan, Ukraine or Egypt to secure supply of sugar and oils.
Obaid said the plans could benefit any of some 10 agriculture businesses in Saudi Arabia, including Savola, as well as individual investors.
'We have to be sure we have enough food coming to the country later on,' he said, referring to crises in world food supply in recent months.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has not had outbreaks of violence over food costs as in some poor countries. But the government has taken measures to stop price-gouging by traders and to raise subsidies, amid high inflation.
The only strategic grain in which Saudi Arabia has been self-sufficient is wheat. But this year the government said it would replace domestic production with imports over a period of eight years to stop depletion of underground water reserves.-Reuters